Fossil fuel giants try to muddy the legal waters in landmark Baltimore case

Baltimore, Maryland - A lawsuit against fossil fuel companies for their efforts to mislead the public about burning fossil fuels' impact on climate change is stuck at a federal appeals court. As soon as hearings get started, though, it could lead to a big pay day and a big helping of climate justice.

An end to offshore drilling is Just what the environment needs.
An end to offshore drilling is Just what the environment needs.  © IMAGO / UIG

Per NPR, the city of Baltimore is suing the fossil fuel industry for "disinformation and lack of disclosure", according to a statement by the city's attorney Vic Sher.

If the plaintiffs win, it could force big polluters to foot the bill for damages caused by climate change.

Baltimore was among the first cities to file a case trying to make fossil fuel companies pay for polluting the planet, but many other cities have filed similar cases, including New York City, Honolulu, and the states of Minnesota, Delaware, and Rhode Island.

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Kannon Shanmugam, an attorney for BP, Exxon, Shell, and other energy companies, argued that the case could threaten the country's energy supplies, because if Baltimore were to win, and get paid billions of dollars by the accused fossil fuel companies, that could end offshore drilling.

He also argued that since climate change is a global issue, the case should be heard at the federal level, not at a city court.

However, similar lawsuits over the tobacco industry's misinformation campaigns were also tried in state court, so there is already a history of this kind of case at the city court level.

Loyola University climate law professor Karen Sokol told The Guardian that the fossil fuel companies are using scare tactics and will fight hard to keep the case from proceeding. If the case never goes forward, the companies never have to divulge their dirty details on climate denial and misinformation.

The appeals court will decide later this year which court has jurisdiction.

Cover photo: IMAGO / UIG

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