In Utah, Stopping Speculative Suits Based on Global Warming

Salt Lake City Tribune, “Noel seeks to protect power companies from emissions lawsuits“:

Power companies would be immune from lawsuits resulting from their greenhouse gas emissions under a bill sponsored by Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, that passed the House on Tuesday.

Noel said he knows of two lawsuits that have been filed against power companies alleging they are contributing to climate change and, he said, Utah might be vulnerable to such lawsuits because so much of its power comes from fossil fuel.

“We need not make Utah fertile ground for future litigation of this type,” Noel said. “It’s only going to hurt our citizens.”

The vote was 49-19.

H.B. 395 is NOT just limited to power companies. As the text states:

A person residing or doing business in this state may not be held liable for damage or injury to another arising out of any actual or potential effect on climate caused by contributions to emissions of greenhouse gases unless it can be proved by clear and convincing evidence that the person has:

a) violated an enforceable statutory limitation or restriction against emissions of a specific greenhouse gas originating within this state; or (b) violated the express terms of a valid, enforceable operating, air, or other permit issued by a state or federal regulatory agency that has jurisdiction over the greenhouse gas emissions of the person or business.

The need to expand the protections beyond utilities is clear. In an earlier story from The Deseret News, “Utah lawmaker Mike Noel targets global warming lawsuits,” Rep. Noel mentions the Comer v. Murphy Oil Co. litigation, in which Mississippi property owners sued 150 oil companies, other energy producers and manufacturing companies under the theory that their emissions exacerbated Hurricane Katrina. (See our post from Thursday.)

Liability protections of this kind are not uncommon. State legislatures have passed laws to preclude suits against fast-food companies for causing obesity and against gun manufacturers for acts committed by criminals.

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