By the Sweat of our Brows, We Sue

By August 6, 2007Briefly Legal, Global Warming

UCLA Law Professor Stephen Bainbridge (who blogs at ProfessorBainbridge.com) took the lay of the litigation land the other day and found the tides three feet high and rising, mama. The next issue used to twist the traditional understanding of public nuisance law? Global warming. From The Examiner:

“(Trial) lawyers are gearing up to turn global warming into their next pot of gold. A coalition of environmental groups and cities are suing the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the Export-Import Bank of the United States and the Export-Import Bank of the United States for making loans to finance oil pipelines, oil drilling, and similar projects that supposedly result in a net emission of billions of tons of carbon dioxide. After Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans trial lawyers Gerald Maples and Timothy Porter sued dozens of energy companies, claiming they had contributed to global warming.”

The Dallas Morning News examined the issue back in June as a business story ( here), i.e., what are local law firms up to, developing expertise, etc.

Meanwhile, Steve Susman of Susman Godfrey — “We Think Outside the Box” — who has previously afflicted energy companies like TXU, is working with the Inuit so if they get flooded out, they can afford to move someplace warmer.

“You’re going to see some really serious exposure on the part of companies that are emitting CO{-2},” Mr. Susman predicted. “I can’t say for sure it’s going to be as big as the tobacco settlements, but then again it may even be bigger. We’re not going to know until the regulatory environment becomes clearer.”

The pre-tax wholesale price of cigarettes has roughly doubled in the wake of the 1998 tobacco settlement. (USDA’s Economic Research Service, latest “Tobacco Outlook,” Table 4 here.) Maybe we can achieve the same thing for electricity!

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