Indiana is one of 15 states that pushed for a federal district court to dismiss a lawsuit against oil and gas companies that contribute to climate issues. The states got their wish this week.
The cities that brought the suit — San Francisco and Oakland, California — say these companies put greenhouse gases into the air. That causes sea levels to rise, which creates a “nuisance” for the state of California.
But the judge dismissed the case, saying it’s not the court’s place to decide an issue that affects a global economy. Janet McCabe is a professor at the Indiana University McKinney School of Law and works with IU’s Environmental Resilience Institute. She says the plaintiffs weren’t asking for the court to develop a global climate policy.
“But rather that this judge recognize that this activity is having an impact on other people. That there should be some recognition of responsibility,” says McCabe.
Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill applauded the court’s decision to scrap the case. He says California should not be allowed to decide what happens in Indiana.
“To impose their will on commerce impacting or affecting not only energy manufacturers but manufacturers all together,” says Hill.
Hill says the suit was hypocritical as San Francisco and Oakland also use fossil fuels.
Part of the federal district court judge's decision pointed out that you cannot bring a nuisance claim in a case where the federal government is supposed to act through the Environmental Protection Agency and measures like the Clean Air Act.
“The frustration that exists there for many people is that the federal government is not, in fact, acting on climate change. In fact, EPA is proposing to roll back, delay, and undue a series of sensible measures," says McCabe.
The court did acknowledge climate change is real and that it’s partially caused by burning fossil fuels.
Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.