Supreme Court Helps Big Oil, Delays Historic Climate Lawsuit

The Biden administration has been asked by the Supreme Court to weigh in on Big Oil‘s request to review the Hawaii Supreme Court’s ruling that allowed Honolulu’s pivotal lawsuit against the companies to go to trial.

In 2020, Honolulu sued major oil and gas companies, accusing them of knowing for decades that burning fossil fuels would damage the climate — and violating laws requiring them to warn the public about the harms caused by their products.

The litigation aims to force oil companies to cover the bill for damages to property and infrastructure. If it were to succeed, the lawsuit and others like it could ultimately force fossil fuel companies to pay billions of dollars. The companies argue the federal Clean Air Act should preempt state laws, and thus shut down the litigation.

The Court’s order to the U.S. Solicitor General to file a brief “expressing the views of the United States” will delay Honolulu’s case from going to trial — a temporary win that will allow Big Oil to delay the suit.

“Big Oil companies are fighting desperately to avoid trial in lawsuits like Honolulu’s, which would expose the evidence of the fossil fuel industry’s climate lies for the entire world to see,” said Richard Wiles, president of the Center for Climate Integrity, in a statement. “Communities everywhere are paying dearly for the massive damages caused by Big Oil’s decades-long climate deception. The people of Honolulu and other communities across the country deserve their day in court to hold these companies accountable.”


Last week, Rolling Stone reported that the dark money network led by conservative activist Leonard Leo, known as the architect of the Supreme Court, has been leading a PR campaign pressuring the Supreme Court to take up the case, shield oil fossil fuel companies from Honolulu’s lawsuit, and use it to set a new precedent quashing state and local climate litigation. 

“The major fossil fuel corporations raked in more than $100 billion in profits combined last year,” Lisa Graves, the executive director at the watchdog group True North Research, told Rolling Stone. “And now their efforts to evade legal accountability are being aided by … the very same groups that helped the majority of justices on the U.S. Supreme Court get their seats on the bench.”

Leave a Comment