By Michael Burger
Yesterday, the Sabin Center, together with the Columbia Environmental Law Clinic, submitted an amicus brief on behalf of the National League of Cities, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and the International Municipal Lawyers Association, in New York City’s appeal of a district court decision dismissing its climate change lawsuit against fossil fuel companies. That lawsuit seeks compensation from BP, Exxon and other companies for climate change-related harms and the costs of adaptation.
As noted in the brief, these prominent national local government associations, whose members represent the majority of the nation’s population, have a particular perspective on the question of whether state or federal law applies:
“Local Government Amici have an interest in the Court’s proper recognition of the existence and availability of state common law claims for climate change impacts. The district court’s conversion of Plaintiff’s state common law claims to federal common law claims and the subsequent dismissal of those converted federal common law claims threatens to intrude upon municipal governments’ authority, within our federalist system, to rely on state law to seek redress for harms that, in a contemporary world defined by complex economic and environmental systems that transcend multiple borders, arise in significant part beyond their jurisdictions but nonetheless have highly localized impacts.”
A number of other groups filed briefs, including NRDC on behalf of Environmental Justice groups, Catherine Sharkey of NYU, and a coalition of attorneys general. The fossil fuel companies’ responsive briefs are due next month.