Judge Alsup rules against Oakland, San Francisco climate suits

“A federal court in California dismissed climate change lawsuits by the cities of San Francisco and Oakland against five oil companies, saying the complaints required foreign and domestic policy decisions that were outside its purview.” [Reuters; opinion in Oakland v. BP] Judge William Alsup of the federal district court in San Francisco had gathered extensive evidence before granting the defendants’ motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim.

Andrew Grossman has a thread (courtesy ThreadReaderApp) quoting high points from the ruling, including the “breathtaking” scope of plaintiffs’ theory (“It would reach the sale of fossil fuels anywhere in the world”), the circumstance that all of us, as distinct from some defendant class only, have benefited from the use of energy, the suitability of the problem for a legislative or international solution rather than judicial invention of new law, and the flagship status of the case (The San Francisco and Oakland suits were the most high-profile so far, and Judge Alsup is well known and respected).

More: Tristan R. Brown, Real Clear Energy; Federalist Society written debate on climate change as mass tort, with Dan Lungren, Donald Kochan, Pat Parenteau, and Rick Faulk; earlier here, here, here, here, here, here, and generally]


  • I appreciate that Judge Alsup took the claims seriously and wrote a comprehensive opinion with significant research and citations. But should we take such claims seriously? I was involved in similar-ish litigation (as far as the lawsuit being an obvious political question that should not be in the courts) regarding reparations lawsuits in the Northern District of Illinois. About 15 years ago, a judge there wrote a 100-plus-page opinion granting motion to dismiss, with significant historical research and citations. There, as here, I was conflicted — the significant support to dismissal was positive, but a simple “you can’t sue for that, dummy” would have seemed more appropriate.

    • Unsure, could the issuance of a comprehensive opinion by a judge who treated the claim seriously discourage would-be other plaintiffs from bringing the same sorts of claims in other courts?

      • Probably not, but hopefully his opinion. though not precedential even in his own district, will have strong persuasive value with the judges in those other courts.