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Rhode Island v. Chevron Corp.

United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island

July 22, 2019, Decided; July 22, 2019, Filed

C.A. No. 18-395 WES



WILLIAM E. SMITH, Chief Judge.

The State of Rhode Island brings this [**6]  suit against energy companies it says are partly responsible for our once and future climate crisis. It does so under state law and, at least initially, in state court. Defendants removed the case here; the State asks that it go back. Because there is no federal jurisdiction under the various statutes and doctrines adverted to by Defendants, the Court GRANTS the State's Motion to Remand, ECF No. 40.

I. Background1

Climate change is expensive, and the State wants help paying for it. Compl. ¶¶ 8, 12. Specifically from Defendants in this case, who together have extracted, advertised, and sold a substantial percentage of the fossil fuels burned globally since the 1960s. Id. ¶¶ 7, 12, 19, 97. This activity has released an immense amount of greenhouse gas into the Earth's atmosphere, id., changing its climate and leading to all kinds of displacement, death (extinctions, even), and destruction, id. ¶¶ 53, 89-90, 199-213, 216. What is more, Defendants understood the consequences of their activity decades ago, when transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy would have saved a world of trouble. Id. ¶¶ 106-46; 184-96. But instead of sounding the alarm, Defendants went out [**7]  of their way to becloud the emerging scientific consensus and further delay changes — however existentially necessary — that would in any way interfere with their multi-billion-dollar profits. Id. ¶¶ 147-77. All while quietly readying their capital for the coming fallout. Id. ¶¶ 178-83.

Pleading eight state-law causes of action, the State prays in law and equity to relieve the damage Defendants have and will inflict upon all the non-federal property and natural resources in Rhode Island. Id. ¶¶ 225-315. Casualties are expected to include the State's manmade infrastructure, its roads, bridges, railroads, dams, homes, businesses, and electric grid; the location and integrity of the State's expansive coastline, along with the wildlife who call it home; the mild summers and the winters that are already barely tolerable; the State fisc, as vast sums are expended to fortify before and rebuild after the increasing and increasingly severe weather events; and Rhode Islanders themselves, who will be injured or worse by these events. Id. ¶¶ 8, 12, 15-18, 88-93, 197-218. The State says it will have more to bear than most: Sea levels in New England are  [*147]  increasing three to four times faster than [**8]  the global average, and many of the State's municipalities lie below the floodplain. Id. ¶¶ 59-61, 76.

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393 F. Supp. 3d 142 *; 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 121349 **; 49 ELR 20126; 86 ERC (BNA) 7312; 2019 WL 3282007

STATE OF RHODE ISLAND, Plaintiff, v. CHEVRON CORP. et al., Defendants.


cause of action, state-law, removal, federal law, preemption, federal common law, air, federal jurisdiction, preempt, federal question, state law, well-pleaded, pollution, courts