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Baltimore County

Baltimore County law department pulls back plans to explore suing fossil fuel companies over climate change

Baltimore County’s law department has decided to drop its request to enter into a contract with a law firm that would have explored suing fossil fuel companies over climate change and its impact on the county.

The county said it decided to drop the matter at the request of the law firm, Sher Edling, according to a statement from Erica Palmisano, a spokeswoman for County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr.

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“As we prepare to welcome a new Council, we remain fully committed to exploring every opportunity to mitigate the impact of greenhouse gas emissions on our residents and communities,” read the statement.

The request, which went before the Baltimore County Council earlier this week, attracted considerable dissent from members.

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Several jurisdictions in Maryland have filed similar lawsuits, including Baltimore City and Anne Arundel County. The suits argue that energy companies should compensate jurisdictions for the impacts of climate change, partially because they concealed information about the power of greenhouse gases to warm the planet.

Baltimore’s case reached the U.S. Supreme Court, but the justices were ruling on a procedural question surrounding whether the city’s case should be heard in federal or state court. That same question has bogged down other climate change suits.

Law office Sher Edling is litigating about 20 such suits from cities across the nation, and the county’s law department had hoped to secure the firm. But the proposal to hire the law firm ran into trouble when it was put before the County Council.

Councilman Todd Crandell, a Dundalk Republican, explicitly said he wouldn’t vote in favor of the contract, and Councilmen Wade Kach and Tom Quirk, a Cockeysville Republican and Catonsville Democrat, also shared concerns about it, placing the contract’s chances of success before the seven-member body in jeopardy.

Several council members expressed concerns that the climate change suits are a “money grab.” Under the contract with the law firm, Sher Edling, the county wouldn’t have to pay for its representation unless it won a favorable judgment in court. In that case, Sher Edling would have received a percentage of the county’s earnings from the case.


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