Washington (GGM) Analysis | October 16, 2020 by Michael Wells, Attorney @slnc01
On October 14, 2020, Trump Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, told Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) she could not say whether climate change exists because it is a “politically contentious issue.” She also confessed to Senator John Kennedy (R-LA) she has no firm view on climate change. A skeptic might ask what her view on climate change has to do with cases that might come before her when she sits on the Supreme Court. Quite a bit, actually, especially in light of the lawsuits filed by a number of States’ Attorneys General against Exxon in the past few years.
The New York State Supreme Court in 2019 considered whether Exxon lied to investors about the company’s contribution to climate change and thus violated securities law. The Court ruled in Exxon’s favor, according to NPR, stating there was no evidence Exxon hid evidence of climate change.
This should signal alarm bells across the globe. Climate change exists, and of course the oil companies knew and know about it. It is the greatest danger any of us will face in our lifetimes.
Moreover, when juxtaposed with Barrett’s testimony, that she could not comment on climate change even to acknowledge it exists, it does not bode well for the environment. Given the lawsuits against Exxon and other energy giants, it stands to reason that climate change is a major legal issue.
Barrett claimed she is not a scientist, but one does not need to be a scientist to accept climate change as a fact. And, if it is accepted as a fact, then that certainly affects how she would consider a case.
It is entirely possible (likely even) that, if Biden prevails, the Justice Department will pursue these climate change cases, thereby forcing Barrett to rule on this issue.
Hypothetically speaking, assume the previous New York case made it to the Supreme Court, and at the heart of the case was whether an oil company was committing fraud by hiding climate change from investors. If Barrett were to believe climate change does not exist or was unsure it existed, then her view of fraud would be very different. Then she might rule in favor of the oil giant thus allowing them to continue to pollute, destroy the environment, and unleash a further parade of horribles, possibly another COVID-19 type pandemic.
Again, this is just speculation, but is it not all speculation as to what kinds of cases Barrett will hear? It is a question or probability. She will hear cases about abortion, birth control, searches and seizures, voting rights, climate change, and myriad other issues none of us ever hear about. In all likelihood, she will hear a case on climate change and likely very soon.
In fact, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison filed a lawsuit on behalf of the citizens of Minnesota against Exxon, Koch Industries, and the American Petroleum Institute, in the Spring of 2020, alleging the fossil fuel industry knew the damage these fossil fuels would cause the environment.
The cases are coming. It is only a matter of time before a case goes before the Supreme Court.
Climate change affects everyone on the planet, and it is a problem that everyone will need to work together to solve. We can do our part such as reducing our carbon footprint and also by planting trees. But we also need to be able to count on a nominee to the Supreme Court to accept this established science because, if she does not, what hope do any of us ever have that climate change will ever get under control?
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