Emails: DOJ Collaborating With Oil Industry In Opposing Climate Change Lawsuits

Darren.Woon

DOJ attorneys have been working with the oil industry in fightings several lawsuits over climate change.

The U.S. Department of Justice has been working with lawyers for oil companies targeted in several major lawsuits over climate change as a “team,” according to InsideClimate News

Oakland and San Francisco filed lawsuits arguing that the oil companies should be held liable for flooding, sea-level rise, and other harmful consequences caused by climate change. A few months later, in early 2018, DOJ attorneys began a series of email exchanges and meetings with industry lawyers. 

“The rapidly rising sea level along the Pacific coast and in San Francisco Bay, moreover, poses an imminent threat of catastrophic storm surge flooding because any storm would be superimposed on a higher sea level,” the lawsuit filed by Oakland officials states. “This threat to human safety and to public and private-property is becoming more dire every day as global warming reaches ever more dangerous levels and sea level rise accelerates.”

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) obtained 178 pages of emails between the government and industry as they worked together to oppose the cities’ lawsuits. 

Legal experts say that the emails do not reveal the substance of discussions that took place during the meetings, but acknowledge that the conversations raise questions about the federal government’s objectivity and whether the Department of Justice was acting in the public’s best interest.

“We would expect them to be working in what they think are the best interests of the United States,” said Pete Huffman, a staff attorney for NRDC. “We don’t think that working with the industry against climate action in most of these places is in the best interests of the United States.”

The apparent one-sided coordination with the industry, however, is especially worrisome, said Huffman, who signed an amicus brief filed by NRDC on behalf of the cities. 

“We don’t know all the facts from these documents, but it starts to look less like trying to get to the best interests of the United States and more like coordinating in the best interests of the industry,” he said. 

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