Rhode Island Climate Change Suit Remains in State Court

November 2, 2020

A lawsuit filed by the state of Rhode Island against 21 fossil fuel companies seeking damages for the impacts of climate change will be allowed to proceed in state court, a federal appeals court has ruled.

The decision Thursday by two judges of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a U.S. District Court judge who ruled that the public nuisance claims made by the Rhode Island attorney general’s office are all made under state statutes and are not preempted by federal laws.

“We look forward to moving past the defendants’ procedural delays and litigating the merits of our case,” Kristy dosReis, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Peter Neronha, said in an email to The Providence Journal.

The suit filed in July 2018 was brought under the area of state law that allows Rhode Island to prevent the pollution of public property.

The state alleged in the complaint that companies failed to adequately warn customers, consumers and regulators of the known risks of their products.

The companies, including Shell and ExxonMobil, argued that because they had contracts with the federal government, the case belonged in federal court.

A Shell spokesperson said the company had no comment. A message seeking comment was left with ExxonMobil.

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