Attorney General Wilson Joins Coalition Fighting Lawsuit That Could Kill Jobs and Cost States Billions

Staff Report From South Carolina CEO

Monday, October 8th, 2018

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson has joined a 12-state coalition of attorneys general fighting another lawsuit that would allow some cities to set energy policy for the entire nation. The lawsuit was filed by King County in Washington State against BP, Chevron, and other energy companies. The state attorneys general are asking the Court to allow them to file a brief in support of dismissing the lawsuit.

The states argue that, if this lawsuit goes forward, other cities and states could be sued, hurting state economies and job creators. “King County’s theory of liability involves nothing more specific than promoting the use of fossil fuels,” the states argue in their brief. “As utility owners, power plant operators, and generally significant users of fossil fuels (through facilities, vehicle fleets and highway construction, among other functions), States and their political subdivisions themselves may be future defendants in similar actions.”

In April, South Carolina was part of a 15-state coalition that fought against a similar lawsuit brought by the cities of Oakland and San Francisco against the same energy companies. The cities, filing as the State of California, argued that fossil fuel companies are a public nuisance and should pay billions of dollars for the costs of dealing with climate change. A federal judge dismissed that suit in June, saying the courts were not the right place to handle such a global issue. “The problem deserves a solution on a more vast scale than can be supplied by a district judge or jury in a public nuisance case,” Judge William Alsup wrote in his 16-page opinion.

He rejected those cities’ legal theory, which is the same one that King County is using in this lawsuit.

“King County seeks to harness the power and prestige of federal courts to remedy global climate change,” the attorneys general say in their brief. “But the questions of global climate change and its effects—and the proper balance of regulatory and commercial activity—are political questions not suited for resolution by any court.” They argue the suit would trample Congress’s process of cooperative federalism where states work in tandem with the EPA to administer the federal Clean Air Act.

“We cannot let the city of Seattle and King County use the court system to set energy policy for the whole country and bypass our elected representatives in Congress,” Attorney General Wilson said. “Like the one that was already dismissed in California, this lawsuit would be a disaster for other cities and states and for job creators.”

Joining South Carolina in the effort is lead-state Indiana, Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Louisiana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin.