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Exxon, Suncor units lose bid to escape Boulder, Colorado's climate case



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By Nate Raymond

June 24 (Reuters) -ExxonMobil XOM.N and subsidiaries of Suncor Energy SU.TO have lost their bids to dismiss a lawsuit by Boulder, Colorado, alleging the energy companies contributed to climate change by concealing from the public the dangers of unchecked fossil fuel use.

Boulder County District Court Judge Robert Gunning on Friday largely rejected the companies contention that Colorado's courts lacked jurisdiction over them and that federal law trumped the state-law claims asserted by the city and its surrounding county.

Gunning disagreed with arguments by Exxon and the Suncor subsidiaries that federal law including the Clean Air Act preempted their state-law claims to the extent they were seeking to regulate emissions and global oil production.

"The energy companies are arguing against a case the local governments did not plead," Gunning said. "Through this action, the local governments are not attempting to litigate a policy solution to global climate change, limit fossil fuel use or production, or control greenhouse gas emissions."

He said instead, they were seeking damages under Colorado tort law for harms and costs caused by the energy companies' actions and the remediation of the hazards they say were caused by a public nuisance they created in their communities.

Representatives for Exxon, Suncor and Boulder did not respond to requests for comment.

The ruling came after the U.S. Supreme Court last year rejected the companies' efforts to move Boulder's 2018 lawsuit, to federal court. It is one of many such cases by state and local governments oil companies are facing nationally.

Boulder's lawsuit alleges the companies knew for decades that burning fossil fuels would lead to climate change but concealed from consumers in Colorado and elsewhere the truth about the dangers of their products and carbon emissions.

The lawsuit accuses the companies of violating Colorado's consumer protection law and various state tort laws and creating a public nuisance that they should be held responsible for helping to mitigate.

Texas-based Exxon and Canada's Suncor deny wrongdoing and argued their connections to Colorado were too remote for the state's courts to have jurisdiction over them in a case seeking to force them to compensate the city and county government for the effects of climate change on their communities.

Exxon's lawyers argued that the global oil company could not have anticipated that in producing and selling fossil fuels it could be sued over alleged harms caused by its products in Colorado.

Gunning, though, said the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a similar argument in 2021 when it ruled against Ford Motor's bid to avoid facing product liability lawsuits filed in Montana and Minnesota, states in which it marketed its products.

The judge agreed with Suncor's lawyers that only some of its U.S. subsidiaries involved in refining petroleum in Colorado and not the Canada-based parent company itself could be sued in the state, citing a lack of jurisdiction over it.

The case is Board of County Commissioners of Boulder County v. Suncor Energy (USA) Inc, Boulder County District Court, Colorado, No. 2018CV30349.

For Boulder: Richard Herz of EarthRights International

For Exxon: Theodore Wells of Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison

For Suncor: Hugh Gottschalk of Wheeler Trigg O’Donnell


Read more:

Republican-led states ask Supreme Court to quash Big Oil climate lawsuits

US Supreme Court rebuffs Exxon, Chevron appeals in climate cases

10th Circuit hands Boulder's climate lawsuit the home court advantage


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