The Supreme Court asks the Justice Department to intervene in climate change lawsuits

The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Justice Department to consider whether to block climate change lawsuits filed by California and 20 other cities and states.

The question is whether greenhouse gas emissions are an issue governed solely by federal law, or whether states can play a role.

The oil and gas industry had urged the Supreme Court to take up the issue now and rule that federal law preempts or overrides state claims for damages for the effects of a warmer climate.

Monday's short order asks Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar to file a brief “expressing the positions of the United States” in the two pending appeals, Sunoco vs. Honolulu and Shell vs. Honolulu.

The announcement indicates that it will take at least several months for the court to decide whether to hear the dispute between the oil and gas producers and the blue states suing them.

In the meantime, however, state and municipal attorneys from Massachusetts to Hawaii can continue pursuing their claims. They are seeking a jury trial to show that the energy companies knew about the dangers of burning fossil fuels for decades and instead tried to downplay the risks of a warming planet.

Last year, Gov. Gavin Newsom and Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta said the state is suing the five largest oil and gas companies — Exxon Mobil, Shell, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and BP — and the American Petroleum Institute over what they described as a “decades-long campaign of deception” that has affected the climate created. -related damages in California. The lawsuit was filed in Superior Court in San Francisco.

Monday's order noted that Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. did not participate in the hearing of these appeals by the court, probably because he owns shares in one or more of the fifteen companies that submitted the appeals.

Unlike the other justices, Alito still owns a large portfolio of individual stocks, which may require him to step aside when deciding a case involving one of those companies. However, if the court were to hear the climate change case in the coming year, it could sell the affected shares and then participate in the decision.

In addition, Alito has been under pressure to abandon the ruling in the pending case involving former President Trump and challenge Trump's claim that he should be immune from criminal charges alleging he conspired to commit his defeat at the to overturn the 2020 elections.

Alito said he wouldn't step aside. He acknowledged that his wife had hung flags at two of their homes in a manner that was widely seen as support for the January 6 insurgents. But he said he had nothing to do with her decision and that this did not prevent him from making an impartial decision in the pending case.

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