Environmental organizations Greenpeace Nordic and Natur og Ungdom (Young Friends of the Earth Norway) are taking the Norwegian government to court once again contesting the approval of new offshore oil fields, with trial starting November 28 at the Oslo District Court. While the groups were unsuccessful in their previous legal challenge, the new round of litigation might reach a different outcome for two reasons.
One, the climate science has gotten even more robust since the Norwegian courts ruled against the environmental plaintiffs in 2018 and 2020, with major reports like those from the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment and the International Energy Agency warning that CO2 emissions from existing fossil fuel infrastructure are expected to exceed the remaining carbon budget for limiting warming to 1.5 degrees C and that no new oil and gas fields are needed in a net-zero emissions pathway. Two, Norway’s Supreme Court determined in its 2020 decision that the government is required to assess the climate impacts of new oil fields before approving them. Plaintiffs say this hasn’t happened or has been wholly insufficient.
“The Norwegian government defies climate science and the Supreme Court when they constantly approve new oil and gas projects without taking into account how this affects the climate,” Greenpeace states.
The new lawsuit – filed this year on June 29 – challenges the Norwegian government’s approval of three oil and gas fields in the North Sea. The approval and any subsequent extraction, without adequate consideration of the climate change context, violates the Norwegian constitution as well as Norway’s obligations under international human rights law including the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the lawsuit contends. This treaty and section 104 of the constitution require the best interests of children be taken into account in matters concerning them, and plaintiffs argue that the oil fields approval goes against this obligation.
“The Norwegian government is constitutionally required to protect the fundamental rights of current and future generations. But for every new oil field the Norwegian government approves, it leaves bigger and bigger emission cuts and increasingly deadly, dangerous climate impacts for current and future generations to deal with,” said Gina Gylver, head of Natur og Ungdom. “This is a grossly unfair burden on young people.”
Greenpeace Nordic and Natur og Ungdom are calling for a temporary injunction or halt to operations pertaining to the three oil fields until the legal challenge is resolved.
According to the Planet Wreckers report published by Oil Change International in September, Norway is among five Global North countries responsible for 51 percent of planned expansion from new oil and gas fields through 2050. As the report explains, “the science is clear that new oil and gas fields are incompatible with limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, yet countries are continuing to approve new oil and gas extraction that endangers the global climate objectives they signed.”
Frode Pleym, head of Greenpeace Nordic, said in a statement that Norway “is a climate hypocrite, not a climate leader.”
“We are confident that we can win this fight against Norway’s aggressive gas and oil policy, which continues to wreak havoc on the climate and people all over the world,” he added.
Trial proceedings continue this week in Oslo and are scheduled to wrap up next week on December 6.
Story originally published by DeSmog
A lawsuit filed by the city and county of Honolulu against nearly a dozen fossil fuel companies is moving towards trial in Hawaii after the Hawaii Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected the companies’ arguments for dismissing the case on appeal.
Honolulu first sued 10 fossil fuel companies — including BP, Chevron, Shell, ExxonMobil, and Aloha Petroleum — in March 2020, in an attempt to hold these companies accountable for alleged deception over the climate risks of their products. The fossil fuel defendants had been seeking to have the case dismissed, arguing that the lawsuit was an attempt to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, a task left to the EPA rather than states. In an 82-page opinion issued on Halloween, the state’s highest court firmly denounced the defendants’ characterization of the lawsuit, and agreed with the plaintiffs that the case is simply about whether the companies “misled the public about fossil fuels’ dangers and environmental impact.”
The court’s ruling, which upholds the trial court’s March 2022 decisions denying defendants’ motions to dismiss the case, means that Honolulu’s lawsuit will advance to the evidence-gathering phase known as discovery and, ultimately, to a jury trial. While several other climate lawsuits against oil companies — including in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island — are also in discovery, Honolulu’s case is furthest along procedurally among those attempting to recover monetary damages.
“This will be the first [climate liability] case to go to a jury,” Patrick Parenteau, emeritus professor of law and senior fellow for climate policy at Vermont Law and Graduate School, told DeSmog. He called the ruling a “breakthrough.”
“Not only are [plaintiffs] going to be able to prove there’s been historic, multi-decade lying, but the lying is going on right now today,” Parenteau said. “That’s going to be devastating in my view when this finally gets to a jury. And it will now get to a jury in Honolulu.”
Honolulu’s suit is demanding monetary damages to help cover the steep costs of responding and adapting to climate impacts, such as extreme flooding, coastal erosion, and sea level rise. The lawsuit charges the companies with claims of nuisance, trespass, and failure to warn, arguing that deceptive marketing and promotion of fossil fuels worsened the climate crisis and its harmful effects. As the Hawaii Supreme Court noted in its opinion: “Defendants knew about the dangers of using their fossil fuel products, failed to warn consumers about those known dangers, and engaged in a sophisticated disinformation campaign to increase fossil fuel consumption, all of which exacerbated the impacts of climate change in Honolulu.”
The case is one of more than two dozen climate liability lawsuits brought against Big Oil in the U.S. by cities, counties, and states, and one fishermen’s trade association, over the past six years. California became the latest jurisdiction to sue the industry with a lawsuit filed in September. Thus far, the cases had been bogged down in procedural wrangling over whether federal or state courts are the proper venue to hear the disputes. Lawyers for fossil fuel companies unsuccessfully argued the litigation belongs in federal court, where they saw an easier path to dismissal. In April, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up oil companies’ requests to review the jurisdiction question in a handful of climate cases, including Honolulu’s. Many of the cases are now advancing in state courts, and Honolulu’s suit is on track to be the first to get to trial.
“Honolulu’s case is now one of the most important climate lawsuits in the country, if not the world,” Corey Riday-White, managing attorney for the Center for Climate Integrity, an advocacy group supporting efforts to hold climate polluters accountable, said in an emailed statement. “Because of this ruling, Honolulu is poised to obtain more evidence of Big Oil’s decades-long campaign of climate deception through the discovery process, and we’re one giant step closer to that evidence getting in front of a jury tasked with deciding whether these polluters are liable for billions in climate damages.”
DeSmog reached out to several of the defendants for comment. BP declined to comment, while Chevron and ExxonMobil did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The Hawaii Supreme Court’s ruling comes after the court heard oral arguments on the companies’ appeal in August. It was the first time the court had been in session following the horrific wildfires in Maui — the worst in the state’s history. Maui has filed a separate climate liability lawsuit against fossil fuel companies, and that case is awaiting a ruling from the trial court on the defendants’ motions to dismiss.
Story originally published by The New Lede
US regulators are breaking the law by failing to set a national cap on climate pollution, endangering human health and the environment, according to a consortium threatening to file a citizens’ lawsuit against the government to force “stronger, faster actions to address the climate emergency.”
The states of Oregon and Minnesota, along with the San Carlos Apache Tribe and climate advocacy organizations 350.org and the Center for Biological Diversity, said this week that they plan to sue the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) demanding the agency respond to a 2009 petition for regulation of greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.
In a letter addressed to EPA Administrator Michael Regan, the consortium pointed out that the EPA has long known that climate changes are occurring that are harming human health and that the “effects will only worsen over time” without regulatory action.
“In the nearly fourteen years since the petition has been pending before EPA, the climate crisis has become far more dire, devastating lives, livelihoods, and ecosystems,” the letter states.
The letter references a new “state of the climate report” from scientists that warns: “Life on planet Earth is under siege. We are now in an uncharted territory” and that “time is up.” And the letter quotes the UN Secretary General warning of an approaching “climate time-bomb.”
The EPA has 180 days to respond to the letter, called a notice of intent to sue, after which time a lawsuit would be filed in federal district court in the District of Columbia.
The Clean Air Act requires control of pollutants that endanger public health and welfare and that come from numerous and diverse sources. Greenhouse gas pollution, the primary cause of the climate crisis, meets those conditions, but the EPA has never regulated it as “criteria” pollutants under the Clean Air Act’s National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) program. Instead, the agency had attempted a piecemeal approach focusing on limiting greenhouse gas emissions from certain sectors, namely the electric power sector and motor vehicles.
Climate advocates say this strategy has been insufficient.
“At this point we’ve tried the sector-by-sector approach, but it’s slow and it’s not getting us what we need,” Maya Golden-Krasner, deputy director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute, said in an interview. “We need this more flexible, wide-ranging all hands-on-deck approach. We’re hoping that this letter really lights a fire under EPA.”
In the 2009 petition, the Center for Biological Diversity and 350.org asked the EPA to set national pollution limits on seven groups of greenhouse gas (GHG) pollutants, including carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, sulfur hexafluoride, and nitrogen trifluoride. The agency issued its greenhouse gas “endangerment finding” that year, triggering its obligation to regulate GHG pollution. But the Obama administration ignored the petition in favor of developing what it called the “Clean Power Plan” rule for power plants.
The Trump administration then denied the petition on its last day in office in January 2021. The Biden administration reopened consideration of the petition but the EPA has not acted on or responded to it, according to Golden-Krasner.
An EPA spokesperson declined to comment, citing the pending litigation.
The initiation of legal action comes after the US sweltered through its hottest summer on record, and experienced dangerous heatwaves, deadly wildfires, and disastrous flooding, among other climate-related disasters.
This is not the first time EPA has faced litigation over its failure to comprehensively regulate climate pollution. In November 2022 several groups led by the Climate Protection and Restoration Initiative along with leading climate experts and scientists sued EPA to try to compel it to phase out climate pollution under a different federal statute – the Toxic Substances Control Act.