When counties and cities across the United States have sought compensation for environmental damages, they have taken legal action against large oil companies and other corporations. The courts have almost exclusively ruled in favor of the defendants. Plaintiffs have often accused the defendants of deliberately spreading inaccurate information regarding climate change. Additionally, plaintiffs have asserted that a variety of infrastructural damages have been directly caused by environmental malpractice from energy corporations.
The expansive legal power that companies such as BP, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Shell, and ConocoPhillips possess have allowed them to dodge allegations of primordial environmental conduct. These companies’ extensive utilization of fossil fuels has been the primary contributor to the global climate change, yet they have not been compensated for these damages. Whether these victories of being unaccountable of the damages have been achieved due to lack of direct evidence or exploitation of legal loopholes in federal environmental policy, these corporations have emerged relatively unscathed.
BP P.L.C. v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore has recently changed this narrative. The fourth circuit court of appeals has allowed this case to remain in Maryland state courts, a large victory for the city of Baltimore. Allowing an environmental case of this magnitude to endure in state court is a drastic swing from traditional environmental proceedings. This decision signifies a shift in how environmental policy can be reviewed in civil law, and how it no longer may be a purely federal and legislative issue.
Moreover, this ruling displays the potential for environmental damages to be held with the same legal weight as other forms of property destruction. Thus, this ruling will reshape the legal implications of how energy companies can be held legally accountable for ecological negligence.
A Shift in Environmental Accountability,
Fordham Undergrad. L. Rev.
Available at: https://research.library.fordham.edu/fulr/vol2/iss1/3