U.S. Tenth Circuit - The FindLaw 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Colorado Sues Two Oil Companies for Causing Climate Change

A lawsuit filed just days ago in Colorado's state courts against two of the biggest oil companies, Exxon and Suncor, alleges that the oil producers have caused climate change and damages to the citizens of the state of Colorado.

Unlike similar cases filed in New York and California, Colorado is not alleging damages based upon sea level change. Rather, the state claims that the "dwindling" snow pack, increased fire risk, and changes in the amount of annual precipitation, caused by climate change, are its damages.

A Truly Colorado Climate Change Lawsuit

Interestingly, one of the more challenging aspects of the lawsuit is that it only focuses on two oil producers. As noted by one source, this may make showing that these oil producers' emissions were the cause of Colorado's climate change problems a bit more difficult. This fact is curious, given that in a similar lawsuit out of New York, it is alleged that Exxon, Conocophillips, Shell, Chevron, and BP are jointly responsible for 11% of the of "all the world's global warming gases."

Whether the case ends up in federal court is yet to be seen, though that is the usual course for the defense of these actions. However, this matter focuses on state law, primarily relying on a nuisance theory, which could weigh heavily in favor of it remaining in the state court.

The oil and gas industry has heavily pushed the argument that climate change should be handled by the legislature rather than the courts. However, as has been reported, some oil producers may have known about the negative public consequences of their industry, and actively misled the public about it.

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