Legal

The New Attack On Climate Scientists: Drain Their Funds With Frivolous Lawsuits

The average cost to hire an attorney in the United States is around $300 per hour. The average lawsuit, not including class action or mass tort cases, takes between one and two years to reach a conclusion. These financial and time-related costs quickly become a huge burden for anyone on the receiving end of a subpoena, and that’s why climate change denial groups are using the court system as a means to put the brakes on the work of climate scientists.

Leading the way in this new attack is the Energy & Environment Legal Institute (E&E), a climate science denial organization that receives funding from fossil fuel companies like Peabody Coal, Arch Coal, and Alpha Natural Resources, according to The Guardian.

Recently, the group filed a lawsuit in Arizona to get their hands on thousands of emails between climate scientists, with this particular lawsuit focused on the emails sent by Dr. Malcolm Hughes from the University of Arizona and Dr. Jonathan Overpeck, the lead author of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. The lawsuit is seeking 6 years of Dr. Hughes’ emails and 13 years of Dr. Overpeck’s emails.

Document Dump: Lawsuit Reveals Extent Of DuPont’s C8 Cover Up

DuPont, Ohio River, C8, Teflon, Lawsuit, Poisoning, Legal, Mike Papantonio, C6, The Intercept, Case, Cancer

Corporate heavyweight DuPont is back in court right now, defending their decision to poison entire communities along the Ohio River by releasing a toxic chemical known as C8 into the river. C8 is a chemical that is used in the manufacturing of the company’s blockbuster product Teflon.

The case alleges that DuPont officials were intimately aware of the dangerous side effects of C-8 exposure but still decided to allow exposure among workers and by releasing the chemical into the environment.

Once the chemicals were dumped into the Ohio River, they seeped into the water supplies of nearby communities, resulting in thousands of people being exposed to dangerous levels of C8. Complicating the exposure problem is the fact that C8 is biopersistent, meaning that it does not break down in the body or in the environment, and instead continues to build as exposure increases.

DuPont Has Quietly Replaced One Deadly Toxin With Another

In early October 2015, a jury awarded $1.6 million to Carla Bartlett after attorneys presented ample evidence to prove that a kidney tumor that Ms. Bartlett had developed was a result of ingesting a chemical known as C8. The chemical was discharged into the Ohio River by DuPont, and it was used for decades as a chemical in the development of Teflon.
 

TransCanada Hoping Bad Trade Deal Will Make Keystone XL A Reality

TransCanada is suing the U.S. government for blocking the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.  The company argued in their federal court filings that President Obama had overstepped his Constitutional powers in putting the brakes on the project.

The company is seeking $15 billion in damages from the federal government in a lawsuit brought under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

This move by TransCanada was entirely predictable, as I wrote back in May 2013:

Blankenship Lawyers Fight To Keep Mine Explosion Discussion Out Of Criminal Trial

As jury selection begins for the trial of coal baron Don Blankenship, his team of lawyers are doing everything possible to prevent prosecuting attorneys from mentioning the Upper Big Branch mine explosion that claimed the lives of 29 mine workers.

Blankenship is currently awaiting trial on charges of conspiring to violate mine safety standards and making false statements. These charges are what ultimately led to the mine disaster, but Blankenship has not been charged for that explosion.

Court Says Residents Can Sue Frackers For Earthquake Damage

The Oklahoma State Supreme Court delivered a devastating blow to the fossil fuel industry last week when it unanimously decided that homeowners in Oklahoma could sue the industry for earthquake damage linked to hydraulic fracturing.

While the justices on the Court did not necessarily endorse the link between fracking and earthquakes — or frackquakes — they did acknowledge the fact that increased fracking activities have correlated with an increase in earthquakes, and that existing tort laws would allow plaintiffs to sue the industry if damage can be proven.

Lawsuit Forces Government To Disclose Extent Of Offshore Fracking In Gulf of Mexico

In August of last year, 21.6 million acres of the Gulf of Mexico were auctioned off to the dirty energy industry so that they could expand their offshore fracking activities in an area that was still reeling from the effects of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

As DeSmog’s Steve Horn reported at that time, many of the leases sold by the government in August were located in the Lower Tertiary Basin, an area defined by hard-to-penetrate rock where the crude is located in deep water, making the practice of hydraulic fracturing exceptionally risky and prone to environmental disaster.

Emails: How State Department Secretly Approved Expanding Piece of Enbridge's "Keystone XL Clone"

State Department Enbridge Emails

DeSmogBlog has obtained dozens of emails that lend an inside view of how the U.S. State Department secretly handed Enbridge a permit to expand the capacity of its U.S.-Canada border-crossing Alberta Clipper pipeline, which carries tar sands diluted bitumen (“dilbit”) from Alberta to midwest markets. 

The State Department submitted the emails into the record in the ongoing case filed against the Department by the Sierra Club and other environmental groups in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota. Collectively, the emails show that upper-level State Department officials hastened the review process on behalf of Enbridge for its proposed Alberta Clipper expansion plan, now rebranded Line 67, and did not inform the public about it until it published its final approval decision in the Federal Register in August 2014.

According to a March 17, 2014 memo initially marked “confidential,” Enbridge's legal counsel at Steptoe & Johnson, David Coburn, began regular communications with the State Department on what the environmental groups have dubbed an “illegal scheme” beginning in at least January 2014. 

Enbridge State Department Emails
Image Credit: U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota

Environmental groups have coined the approval process an “illegal scheme” because the State Department allowed Enbridge to usurp the conventional presidential permit process for cross-border pipelines, as well as the standard National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process, which allows for public comments and public hearings of the sort seen for TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline.

Further, the scheme is a complex one involving Enbridge's choice to add pressure pump stations on both sides of the border to two pipelines, Enbridge Line 3 and Enbridge Line 67, to avoid fitting under the legal umbrella of a “cross-border” pipeline.

Hastening the approval process — and thus dodging both the conventional presidential permit and NEPA process — came up in a June 6, 2014 memo written by Coburn and his Steptoe co-counsel Josh Runyan. Enbridge's legal argument centered around ensuring profits for its customers “consistent with its obligations as a common carrier.”

State Department Enbridge Emails
Image Credit: U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota

BNSF Challenges Lawsuit From Engineer Who Ran For His Life From Exploding Oil "Bomb Train"

Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) has responded defensively to the oil-by-rail lawsuit filed by former BNSF locomotive engineer Bryan Thompson, a case recently reported on by DeSmogBlog.

BNSF — the top rail carrier of oil obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in North Dakota's Bakken Shale basin — denied all charges. The company also argued that some federal laws protect the company from liability for injuries allegedly suffered by Thompson. 

The  Answer to the Complaint signals the likelihood of a protracted legal battle ahead. Lee A. Miller, a Minneapolis, Minnesota-based attorney representing BNSF against Thompson, filed the company's response in Cass County, North Dakota. 

Miller argued that the damages allegedly suffered by Thompson — which include Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from living through and running away from the December 2013 Casselton, North Dakota oil train explosion — were “caused or contributed to by Plaintiff's own contributory or sole fault.”

He also argued that the explosion occurred due to “unknown causes for which BNSF is not responsible” and “are the result of acts or omissions of persons, entities, or corporations other than BNSF…over whom” they have “no control or right to control at the time of the alleged incident.”

BNSF Responds to Former Engineer Lawsuit
Image Credit: State of North Dakota District Court; East Central Judicial District

American Legislative Exchange Council Threatens Lawsuit Against Critics Who Point Out ALEC's Climate Denial

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has threatened public interest group Common Cause with a lawsuit for pointing out what the public record has made clear: ALEC denies the scientific consensus on climate change.

As first reported by The Washington Post, ALEC's lawyers Alan Dye and Heidi Abegg wrote a cease-and-desist letter to Common Cause president Miles Rapoport. Dye and Abegg demanded that Common Cause stop calling ALEC a cog in the climate denial machine. 

“We demand that you cease making inaccurate statements regarding ALEC, and immediately remove all false or misleading material from the Common Cause, and related, websites within five business days,” they wrote. “Should you not do so, and/or continue to publish any defamatory statements, we will consider any and all necessary legal action to protect ALEC.”

ALEC critics call the organization a “corporate bill mill.” 

Dye and Abegg also demanded an immediate and public retraction of statements the Common Cause has made about ALEC with regards to climate denial.

ALEC Climate Denial Lawsuit

Image Credit: Common Cause

Further, Dye and Abegg argued that ALEC — contrary to the vast amount of evidence collected by those who research the organization — does not deny climate change.

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