Thursday, April 7, 2022

Fourth Circuit Remands Baltimore Climate Change Suit to State Court

Today the Fourth Circuit issued a unanimous decision in Mayor & City Council of Baltimore v. BP P.L.C., on remand from last year’s Supreme Court decision (covered here). Judge Floyd’s 93-page opinion, joined by Chief Judge Gregory and Judge Thacker, affirms the district court’s order remanding the case to Maryland state court. It begins:

This appeal returns to us on remand from the Supreme Court, and we are now tasked with examining the entirety of the district court’s remand order to determine if the climate-change lawsuit in question was properly removed to federal court. BP P.L.C. v. Mayor & City Council of Balt., 141 S. Ct. 1532, 1538, 1543 (2021). To accomplish that charge, we must evaluate eight distinct grounds for removal that twenty-six multinational oil and gas companies (Defendants) maintain provide federal jurisdiction over the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore’s (Baltimore) climate-change action. Because we conclude that none of Defendants’ bases for removal permit the exercise of federal jurisdiction, we affirm the district court’s remand order.

For those keeping score, the “eight distinct grounds” are:

(1) federal common law; (2) substantial issues of federal law, including foreign affairs, under Grable; (3) complete preemption under the CAA, 42 U.S.C. §§ 7401–7671q; (4) federal enclaves; (5) the OCSLA, 43 U.S.C. § 1349(b)(1); (6) the bankruptcy removal statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1452(a); (7) the admiralty jurisdiction statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1333(1); and (8) the federal officer removal statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1442(a)(1).

The opinion concludes:

The impacts of climate change undoubtably have local, national, and international ramifications. See Massachusetts, 549 U.S at 521–53 (noting that the harms associated with climate change are “serious and well recognized”). But those consequences do not necessarily confer jurisdiction upon federal courts carte blanche. In this case, a municipality has decided to exclusively rely upon state-law claims to remedy its own climate-change injuries, which it perceives were caused, at least in part, by Defendants’ fossil-fuel products and strategic misinformation campaign. These claims do not belong in federal court. Given the jurisdictional inquiry before us, we take no view on whether Baltimore will ultimately fail or succeed in proving its claims under Maryland law. We cannot decide those questions. But we are confident that Maryland courts can capably adjudicate claims arising under their own laws that fail to otherwise provide any federal jurisdiction. * * * 

Federal Courts, Recent Decisions, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink


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