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Climate change lawsuit won’t succeed — or help Baltimore County | READER COMMENTARY

The logo for ExxonMobil appears above a trading post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. The company has been accused of misleading the public about the role its products have had in climate change. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

The Baltimore Sun’s editorial favoring climate litigation misses the point (”Baltimore County Council fails a (pretty darn easy) climate change test,” Nov. 29). Before Thanksgiving, the Baltimore County Council started debating a request from a law firm to sue companies that provide oil and gas that families and businesses rely on every day, as part of a national campaign to blame climate change on the energy sector.

A bipartisan group of council members rightly pointed out flaws with the litigation, namely that it will do nothing to solve climate change. The law firm then pulled the request.


An honest dialogue about the lawsuit would have been revealing. It has no merit. The U.S. Supreme Court dismissed an earlier version of these lawsuits in 2011, cautioning that climate litigation raises national and international legislative and regulatory policy matters that cannot be decided by courts.

Nevertheless, two dozen communities around the country have signed up for this second round of lawsuits. There is now a clear track record of what this litigation is about — politics. The litigation is funded by groups with a political agenda: to “raise the price” of fuel and hold “consumers responsible” for climate change. By going to courts, they are trying to avoid public input as well as the checks and balances of the legislative and regulatory processes.


That’s why community and environmental leaders are sounding the alarm. For example, Kathleen Curry, a former Democratic leader in the Colorado legislature, said these lawsuits hurt families and businesses because many people cannot afford higher gas and electric bills.

Annapolis resident Ted Garrish, a former general counsel at the U.S. Department of Energy, explained that legally “it is impossible to point fingers” at any companies because climate change is a global phenomenon.

Christopher Barnard of the American Conservation Coalition said that if you care about fighting climate change, you “don’t have time to waste on what amounts to frivolous lawsuits that are likely little more than political stunts.”

And Richard Kauzlarich, a U.S. ambassador under President Bill Clinton, pointed out energy security concerns, noting the litigation targets only American, Canadian and European energy companies — not those in China and Russia.

These concerns — along with the fact that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit already found that a similar climate suit has no legal merit — would have been aired had the Baltimore County Council continued debating the litigation.

The truth is that the way to make meaningful change with respect to the climate is to innovate how we source and use energy. That takes a huge investment in technology and collaboration, not lawsuits. Also, President Joe Biden and Congress have made funds available to communities to address climate impacts.

The Baltimore County Council should be commended for asking the hard questions and not playing politics with our legal system and our environmental and energy needs.

— Phil Goldberg, Bethesda


The writer serves as special counsel to the National Association of Manufacturers’ Manufacturers’ Accountability Project.

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