City of New York v. Chevron Corp., No. 18-2188 (2d Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
The City filed suit against five multinational oil companies under New York tort law seeking to recover damages for the harms caused by global warming. In this case, the City asserts that its taxpayers should not have to shoulder the burden of financing the City's preparations to mitigate the effects of global warming. Rather, the City suggests that a group of large fossil fuel producers are primarily responsible for global warming and should bear the brunt of these costs.
The Second Circuit held that municipalities may not utilize state tort law to hold multinational oil companies liable for the damages caused by global greenhouse gas emissions. The court explained that global warming is a uniquely international concern that touches upon issues of federalism and foreign policy. Consequently, it calls for the application of federal common law, not state law. The court also held that the Clean Air Act grants the Environmental Protection Agency – not federal courts – the authority to regulate domestic greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, federal common law actions concerning such emissions are displaced. Finally, the court held that while the Clean Air Act has nothing to say about regulating foreign emissions, judicial caution and foreign policy concerns counsel against permitting such claims to proceed under federal common law absent congressional direction. Because no such permission exists, the court concluded that each of the City's claims is barred and the complaint must be dismissed.