Trump and Big Oil Have Some Bad Days In Court

The Sage Grouse Wins          Photo: Rick Egan, The Salt Lake Tribune

Oil and gas companies have suffered several high profile unfavorable rulings in recent days.  A federal appeals court in California ruled that lawsuits against the major oil companies by San Mateo County and the city of Oakland for compensation for climate change impacts such as sea-level rise are not blocked by federal law from going forward in state court.  And a judge in Montana invalidated 440 oil and gas leases on federal land because the Interior Department did not adhere to an agreement between the agency and farmers, ranchers, conservationists, and energy groups to protect habitat for the sage grouse, which allowed the bird to remain off the endangered species list.

Why This Matters: The Trump Administration — trying to keep these California climate cases in federal court — asked the court to rule that the municipalities’ claims are preempted by the federal Clean Air Act. Meanwhile, the Montana judge held them accountable for running roughshod over other bedrock environmental laws like the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act.  They simply can’t have it both ways — use our basic environmental laws to try to eliminate some legal challenges and then ignore similar laws when they want to help the oil and gas industry.

California Cases Go Forward

The California decisions give the municipal governments a much better chance of prevailing because California state law is much more favorable for holding the oil and gas companies responsible for the impacts of their actions.  According to E&E News, legal experts say the federal court decisions set an “important tone” for the broader legal fight about blame for climate change.  One expert explained, “The closer plaintiffs get to being able to collect evidence and present it to a court, the stronger the likelihood that at least one of the cases succeeds.”  Plus, the case also sets a precedent for similar challenges  — now it is clear that state law claims in other states can proceed in state courts rather than federal court.

Montana Leases Voided

As we reported, the same judge voided 247 oil and gas leases in early May holding that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) totally failed to meet its obligations under the National Environmental Policy Act to look at the environmental impact of the leases that would have permitted fracking.  In this case, according to The Salt Lake Tribune, the judge found that the Bureau of Land Management did not do enough to avoid leases on land that is critical habitat for the sage grouse.  The sage grouse used to inhabit parts of 11 western states, but its numbers have plummeted due to oil and gas development on its habitat.  The attorney who argued the case for conservation groups, Michael Freeman, said in a statement, “It confirms that the Trump administration violated the law in bulldozing those commitments in its haste to sell off lands that are owned by all Americans to the oil and gas industry.”

Up Next

DOE Loan Program to Get Revamp Under Granholm’s Leadership

DOE Loan Program to Get Revamp Under Granholm’s Leadership

by Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer Less than two weeks after being confirmed, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm has announced that the Biden administration is resuming an Obama-era program that gave billions in loans to clean energy companies. Granholm, during talks at the CERAWeek energy conference on Wednesday, pointed the clean energy businesses the Department of Energy loan program […]

Continue Reading 636 words
Wind Energy Company in the Business of Saving Condors

Wind Energy Company in the Business of Saving Condors

by Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer The world desperately needs more sources of emissions-free energy, yet as these power sources are brought online, we must also contend with their impact on animals and ecosystems. In California, government officials are trying to rescue California condors, which are critically endangered, from being killed by the blades of […]

Continue Reading 527 words
Texas Gas Companies are Pulling Strings in Local Green Energy Policy

Texas Gas Companies are Pulling Strings in Local Green Energy Policy

In the wake of one of the largest power losses in United States history, the conversation about green energy in Texas is back in the headlines. Emily Holden and two other investigative reporters collaborated on a story that ran in The Guardian, The Texas Observer, and San Antonio Report exposing how the Texas Gas Service was successful in significantly watering down a plan by the city of Austin to reduce the use of natural gas there in the future. 

Why This Matters: The oil industry has spent billions to manipulate the national conversation around green energy.

Continue Reading 606 words

Want the planet in your inbox?

Subscribe to the email that top lawmakers, renowned scientists, and thousands of concerned citizens turn to each morning for the latest environmental news and analysis.