Delaware Climate Change Lawsuit Against Big Oil Faces Major Setback as State Court Partially Dismisses Claims

Wilmington, Delaware – A lawsuit filed by the government of Delaware against major fossil fuel companies over their greenhouse gas emissions and impact on global warming has been partially dismissed by a top state court. Judge Mary Johnston of the Delaware Superior Court ruled that the state’s claims for damages related to out-of-state or global greenhouse gas emissions and interstate pollution are preempted by the federal Clean Air Act and fall beyond the limits of state statute. Although other claims can still be pursued, the ruling significantly weakens the case.

The lawsuit, which dates back to September 2020, alleged that the oil industry defendants, including Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, ConocoPhillips, the American Petroleum Institute, and many others, misrepresented the dangers of their fossil fuel products. Delaware argued that the companies engaged in “greenwashing” by promoting investments in renewable energy projects while ramping up fossil fuel production. However, the court found that the state failed to specifically identify alleged misrepresentations for each defendant, leading to the dismissal of all claims related to misrepresentations and greenwashing.

Furthermore, the court dismissed Delaware’s claims that defendants violated the Delaware Consumer Fraud Act, citing the five-year statute of limitations. The ruling also cast doubt on the plaintiffs’ ability to isolate and measure alleged damages caused by air pollution limited to state-owned property.

Delaware’s lawsuit is part of a broader trend of “climate deception” cases filed across the country. The state is represented in court by California law firm Sher Edling, which specializes in such novel cases. Sher Edling has pursued similar litigation on behalf of other states and local governments, including Minnesota, Rhode Island, New Jersey, New York City, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Baltimore, Honolulu, and several others.

While the ruling represents a setback for Delaware’s push for accountability from fossil fuel companies, the global challenge of climate change continues to require a coordinated international policy response. The dismissal of certain claims in the lawsuit does not diminish the urgency of addressing climate change and transitioning to cleaner energy sources.

In conclusion, a Delaware state court has partially dismissed a lawsuit filed by the government against major fossil fuel companies over their greenhouse gas emissions. The court ruled that some claims were preempted by federal law and beyond the limits of state statute. The decision weakens the case but does not diminish the need for global action to address climate change.