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Supreme Court Shows Interest in Considering Major Climate Lawfare Case, Sunoco v. Honolulu

AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File

Hawaii isn't a place you associate with hot discussions on topics of the day. While it's a deep-blue Democrat stronghold, my brief experiences with the state have been that it is a pretty laid-back place. My wife and I visited Oahu in early 2010, as I had just finished a prolonged consulting gig that had me hopscotching through three countries on two continents, and I had a boatload of airline and hotel points to use up. So: Hawaii.

We spent five days there. It was like a second honeymoon, although it was really our first, as when we got married we were both back at work within 48 hours. Hawaii is a beautiful place, with lovely beaches and a salubrious climate. The drinking and dining weren't bad, either; and this being a few years ago, Waikiki wasn't completely taken over by the homeless. The only downside was that Pearl Harbor was closed for maintenance on the various World War II exhibits there.

Now, though, we see that Aloha spirit or not, Hawaiians can be downright fractious. 

It turns out the city of Honolulu has filed a lawsuit against several major oil companies, claiming that said companies produce and sell products that can cause climate change - without warning the consumers. Now, that case may be going before the United States Supreme Court, and their taking it up for review looks likely.

The Supreme Court seemed to signal interest this week in taking up a challenge launched by Hawaii against big oil companies to hold them liable for climate change, and some Democrats are suggesting the high court is "captured" for the fossil fuel industry. 

The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Justice Department to weigh in on a petition to hear a lawsuit brought by the City of Honolulu against major fuel companies including Sunoco, Exxon and Chevron, claiming the companies’ products cause greenhouse gas emissions and global warming without warning consumers about the risks. 

The city employed a series of state laws like public nuisance and trespass measures and said the companies should pay billions to the state to abate the effects of climate change like weather events, sea level rise, heat waves, flooding and global warming generally. 

The high court gave DOJ no deadline for the solicitor general’s input, but its request indicates a high likelihood the court wants to hear the case. 

We can hope the Court does hear this case because a slam-dunk of Honolulu's climate-based argument sure seems likely. I'm not a lawyer, mind you, nor do I play one on television, but I do have some thoughts.


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In summary: This case is a canard and should be dismissed with prejudice.

The Hawaii Supreme Court has already said a trial can go ahead, but trial courts aren't the places for this kind of rulemaking. Hawaii, for that matter, isn't the place for this kind of rulemaking. Energy policy affects the entire nation, as any attempts to hamper supply - which is precisely what this case intends to do - increases prices, and an increase in energy prices affects everyone, adding to the cost of everything, everywhere, from Maine to Hawaii, from Alaska to Florida. Were Honolulu to be successful in this folderol, it would just be another item foisted on us by activist leftists, adding to the cost of living. Plus, there is the fact that this case is brought in the name of the nebulous cause of climate change, and it is all the more frivolous.

What's even more ridiculous is the claim that the oil and gas companies haven't been "...warning consumers about the risks." For one thing, most of those risks exist mainly in the fevered imaginations of activists; what's more to the point is that nobody who has not been living under a flat rock somewhere due west of Middle O' Nowhere, USA, has failed to be subjected to the non-stop, handwringing, outspoken advocacy of the entire fossil-fuel-bad, climate change activists amongst us. Everyone with enough awareness to pound sand knows of this controversy, and it's pure lawfare to claim that the oil companies need, for some reason, to warn us of largely unverified risks from using their legal products without which our modern technological society is impossible.

If Honolulu and Hawaii in general are serious about this, let them ban imports of gas and oil into the islands. It would be entertaining to see how they get along; at least the people there would be in no danger of freezing to death.

This seems a case tailor-made for the Supreme Court to step in and, we can hope, stomp the brakes on this kind of lawfare waged against the nation's energy producers.

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