Big Oil Companies Maintain Perfect Losing Streak in Efforts to Escape State and Local Governments’ Climate Lawsuits in State Courts

VERMONT — A federal district court this week ruled that the State of Vermont’s lawsuit seeking to hold ExxonMobil, Shell, and other Big Oil companies accountable for deceiving consumers about how their fossil fuel products cause climate change can move forward in state court, where it was originally filed. 

The state’s consumer protection lawsuit, filed by the Vermont Attorney General’s Office in 2021, charges the companies with committing “numerous deceptive acts and unfair practices in connection with their marketing, distribution, and sale of gasoline and other fossil fuel products to consumers within the State.” 

This week’s decision is the latest in a long, unanimous string of rulings to reject fossil fuel company arguments to avoid facing climate accountability lawsuits from state and local governments in state court. 

Richard Wiles, president of the Center for Climate Integrity, released the following statement: 

“This ruling is a major victory for Vermont’s efforts to hold Big Oil companies accountable for their climate lies and the damage they’ve caused. Once again, courts have rejected Big Oil’s baseless arguments to escape accountability in state courts for their decades of climate deception and disinformation. The fossil fuel industry’s efforts to deceive the public about climate change have caused irreparable harm to communities across the state and country.  The people of Vermont deserve their day in court to make these companies answer for their fraud.” 

Background on Climate Accountability Lawsuits Against Big Oil: 

Since 2017, the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont, and the District of Columbia; municipal governments in California, Colorado, Hawai'i, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and South Carolina, and two tribal governments have filed lawsuits in state court to hold major oil and gas companies accountable for deceiving the public about their products’ role in climate change. 

To date, eight federal appeals courts — including the Second Circuit, which has jurisdiction over the District of Vermont — and more than a dozen federal district courts have unanimously ruled against the fossil fuel industry’s arguments to prevent these lawsuits from moving forward in state courts. Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court declined Big Oil’s requests to review one of those lower court rulings for the third time. 

Last year, the U.S. Justice Department added its support to the communities, urging the Supreme Court to deny ExxonMobil and Suncor Energy’s petition to hear a case brought by three Colorado communities.