Boulder joins suits demanding climate damages from energy companies

The litigation campaign had previously recruited several California cities and New York City, and now three local governments in Colorado, the City of Boulder, Boulder County, and San Miguel County, are joining in demanding recoupment of moneys spent because of climate change. I’m quoted in Michael Sandoval’s account in Western Wire:

Walter Olson, a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute, told Western Wire that besides pushing for settlement, an additional objective is implementing new regulation via the courts, rather than legislation or administrative rulemaking….

The multi-state, multi-pronged approach is key, Olson said, given the differences between states on everything from recovery to discovery procedures.

“The strategy in these cases is typically to recruit as many plaintiffs as possible, with an emphasis on actions in different states. States have, e.g., different consumer laws to sue under that may allow different theories of recovery, or different procedures each of which may place the defendants at some particular kind of disadvantage,” Olson said….

“Typically the government plaintiffs are offered a deal of ‘no fee unless successful,’ just as in the ads on late-night TV,” Olson said….

Olson said that the approach in Colorado may be slightly different, given the reaction to the lawsuits filed in California and New York City that have been viewed simply as money-grabs.

“The first wave of these climate suits have gotten a reputation in the press as organized by law firms seeking contingency fees who intend to run the actions for maximum cash payout,” Olson said. “Involving EarthRights and a community like Boulder could be an effort to change this image by introducing more of an idealistic non-profit tone and maybe a suggestion that the goal isn’t just to squeeze money out in a settlement and then return to business as usual, which is basically what happened with the tobacco settlement,” he concluded.

I also mention that speculative litigation of this sort is made vastly easier by our lack of a loser-pays rule.

A very different view — and one with which, needless to say, I disagree — from the Niskanen Center, which is participating in the suits.


  • The hypocrisy is certainly rife. The citizens of Boulder and other places suing are no less voluntary users of the very energy that they impugn. They gladly consume fossil fuels, while some occasion to virtue signal by using electric cars (though with carbon sourced electricity).

  • When judges start issuing sanctions for frivolous litigation, this nonsense will stop.

    But, don’t hold your breath!

  • I for one look forward to said plaintiffs being consistent and banning the use of the putative damaging materials (oil, nat gas, coal, electricity from same) within their jurisdictions. Welcome back to 1790 City of Boulder, Boulder County, and San Miguel County.

    Hope you enjoy your whale oil lamps and beeswax candles for lighting (after all, can’t use kerosene). Best go find an old school crosscut saw & double bit ax and start cutting some firewood for next winter to stay warm.

  • As if any of the old school heating and lighting methods had a reduced carbon footprint. What do the boulder city vehicles run on? And isn’t there some doctrine about unclean hands? Judge needs to bitch slap a few lawyers, city reps and maybe even a citizen or two.

  • Instead of asking what will the city vehicles run on, light and heat their homes/businesses, the oil companies should let them find out. Stopping the sale of all their products within the boundaries of each city/county that is suing them and I’ll bet there will be a change of heart fairly quickly.

    • Naaa, they will just do with gas/oil as Seattle folks did with soda… Go where they sell it to get it.

  • Our gas pumps ask for a zip code to validate the transaction. Should be pretty easy to set the system up to refuse any transaction where the credit card holder lives in Boulder.