January 3, 2020

Whitehouse, Reed Slam U.S. Chamber Arguments in RI Climate Case

Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Ed Markey (D-MA) have filed a friend-of-the-court brief in a case brought by the state of Rhode Island seeking to hold fossil fuel companies accountable for costs associated with climate change.  The brief counters arguments made by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in its own amicus brief claiming that state courts should not have an opportunity to rule on climate change cases.  The Senators note in their brief that while the Chamber purports to support action to tackle climate change, it has nonetheless carried out a decades-long campaign to stifle action by both Congress and the executive branch, to pervert climate science and the public’s understanding of climate science, and to undermine the United States’ role in international negotiations.

The Chamber’s brief attempts to convince this Court of its sincere concerns about climate change in order to suggest that it has credible concerns on the narrow jurisdictional issue before this Court,” wrote the Senators.  “However, before the U.S. Congress, the Chamber vigorously opposes any effective congressional effort.  It should not be permitted to have it both ways, as the end result would be that no one has authority to address the climate catastrophe we are barreling towards.”                                                                                                               

The Senators add that the Chamber’s record of influencing the executive branch is similarly hostile to sound climate change policy, and the Chamber has wielded its considerable political clout to oppose climate action in elections as well.  

The Chamber’s actions are not those of an organization in search of ‘serious solutions’ [to climate change],” added the Senators.  “They reflect a decades-long campaign of disinformation, obstruction, and political intimidation designed to prevent democratically accountable branches of government from adopting any policies that would reduce carbon pollution.  This Court should assess the Chamber’s arguments accordingly.

The brief was filed in Rhode Island v. Shell Oil Products Company, currently before the First Circuit Court of Appeals.  The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is independent from the local chambers of commerce that support small businesses in Rhode Island. 

A copy of the brief is available here.



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