19 States Challenge California on Emissions Legal Activism

Traffic in California. (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg News)

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Alabama is leading a 19-state coalition suing California, Connecticut, Minnesota, New Jersey and Rhode Island in the U.S. Supreme Court for “imposing ruinous liability and coercive remedies” in state legal fights against energy companies that threaten the national economy and extend beyond their borders.

“If the Supreme Court lets them continue, California and its allies will imperil access to affordable energy for every American,” Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall declared. “That would threaten our national security and harm millions of Americans already struggling to pay for gas and groceries. To protect Alabama citizens and our constitutional order, we had no choice but to sue.”

He accused the five states of promoting a radical legal agenda in court that will drag unwilling states and their residents into forced regulatory compliance.

“A small gas station in rural Alabama could owe money to the people of Minnesota simply for selling a gallon of gas,” Marshall said. “The customer might even be liable, too. These states are welcome to enforce their preferred policies within their jurisdiction, but they do not have authority to dictate our national energy policy.”

The 88-page lawsuit was brought by 19 attorneys general representing the citizens of Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming.

“I will always fight to put Missouri consumers first, which includes protecting Missouri energy when it comes under attack by other states,” Attorney General Andrew Bailey said. “California and its radical counterparts are working to upend our economy with their unconstitutional climate agenda. My office will not allow a state with zero respect for the rule of law to dictate how Missourians live their lives.”

State Coalition lawsuit

Called a “Motion for Leave to File Bill of Complaint,” the three-part lawsuit filed May 22 contains a motion, complaint and brief outlining why traditional energy sources (oil, natural gas and coal) are essential for American prosperity.

Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond accused California, Connecticut, Minnesota, New Jersey and Rhode Island of “wasteful litigation” to cripple vital national energy policies.

“The energy industry is key to a thriving Oklahoma and nation. No single state — or even five — should be allowed to dictate what is right for another state. I will always defend what is right for Oklahomans,” Drummond emphasized.

The defendant states stand accused of trying to reshape the U.S. energy industry by using their state laws in their courts to impose “ruinous liability and coercive remedies on energy companies through state tort actions” instead of traditional measures to influence federal legislation or petition federal agencies.

“In essence, defendant states want a global carbon tax on the traditional energy industry. Citing fears of a climate catastrophe, they seek massive penalties, disgorgement and injunctive relief against energy producers based on out-of-state conduct with out-of-state effects,” the lawsuit said. “If defendant states are right about the substance and reach of state law, their actions imperil access to affordable energy everywhere and inculpate every state and indeed every person on the planet. Consequently, defendant states threaten not only our system of federalism and equal sovereignty among states, but our basic way of life.”

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Further, defendant states aim to create, regulate, tax and dictate the types/usage nontraditional energy policy well beyond their borders, the brief noted. This activity “threatens profound injury” to residents of the 19 plaintiff states who daily use traditional energy products.

“Dissatisfied with their options under federal law, however, numerous state and local governments have launched a frenzy of lawsuits invoking their own laws to demand billions of dollars in damages allegedly related to past, present and future climate change owing, they say, to interstate gas emissions,” declared the coalition.

The 19 states outlined potential lost tax revenue if the sale of energy products within their borders is impaired by defendant state actions. The Supreme Court is being asked to protect the coalition’s ability to use and regulate traditional energy sources and declare unconstitutional the behaviors attributed to defendant states.

“Cross-country travelers driving vehicles that use liquid fuels pass through Nebraska on Interstate 80 and other highways. They pay Nebraska’s fuel tax during such trips. Nebraska’s fuel tax revenues total over $300 million annually,” the brief explained in a section detailing how the 19 state economies are interlocked with traditional energy sources.

Defendant states are accused of three counts:

  • Violating the constitutional protection given to states in a horizontal, equal separation of powers
  • Ignoring exclusive federal authority over interstate emissions
  • Violating the commerce clause granting Congress the power to regulate interstate business

“Each state is sovereign, and these other states have no right to tell South Carolina what to do, especially when their plans would cost South Carolinians more and reduce our ability to generate the energy we need,” Attorney General Alan Wilson said.

Idaho Attorney General Raul Labrador said the defendant states are involved in climate change legal activism.

“It’s not a new tactic to sue an industry to force a social agenda, but the stakes have never been higher,” Labrador said. “We cannot let national energy policy be driven by a handful of activist states pushing their climate change agenda. This will just increase prices for everyone at the pump while crippling our national economy.”

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