Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Case of Big Oil vs. Climate Change - 2

We discussed Comer v Murphy Oil in the first post of this series.

It was a case against big petroleum for being part of the cause of global warming thereby increasing the severity of Hurricane Katrina.

The three judge panel originally hearing the case reversed the district court which had ruled in favor of the oil companies.

The oil companies asked for a full en banc hearing which was granted.

Then one of the 9 judges who were to hear the case recused herself unexpectedly.

The court has now made a very, very strange decision deciding it has no quorum so it dismissed the appeal, in effect reversing the three judge panel even though it said it had no quorum.


Two judges wrote dissenting opinions.

The previous post in this series is here.


  1. I would assume they simply didn't want to touch the case. The political/career ramifications for the judges alone are stupendous.

    This also seems like a strange forum to answer such a case. The question is so broad and so inherently technical and scientific - could a reasonable person conclude that the oil companies' in question actions have caused Global Warming, leading to Hurrican Katrina and the damages to the plaintiffs. The case hinges on whether a court is willing to agree that Global Warming itself is a settled fact under the law. I can't imagine that even the Supremes want to touch that one, although I'm pretty certain how they'd find (NO!).

    Once that fact is established, its game over for the oil, coal, and automobile industries, just to name three, so I'd expect a legal fight of historic dimensions to prevent it. Big oil will literally bankrupt itself to prevent such a thing from ever happening, as that's the likely result if it ever does.

    Global Warming will NEVER be accepted by a significant portion of the business community until a widely available, exploitable, and profitable green energy alternative can be found. As that eventuality is at least several decades away (if in fact one can ever be found at all), don't look for anything meaningful to be done about it til then. The current energy economy will crash and burn of its own accord - it's in the process of doing so as we speak - before either the government(s) or big business does anything to fix any of this.

    What does anyone actually think they'd do? Give profits back fixing any of this? Blogger please! If BP could have kept all that spilled oil on the ocean floor and out of site, they'd never have admitted the Gulf spill at all and would only be working it to recover the spilled oil for sales revenues. And, if the cost/benifit analysis determined that it wasn't feasible to recover, they'd just let the damn thing bleed out. That's what they do.

  2. Looks like Top Kill has failed, so on to another rejiggered cofferdam solution while the relief wells are being drilled. They haven't mentioned whether those are foolproof solutions either, but I read an article that says it would take 7 years for the Mercado field to empty if not stopped. Ironically, now that the oil spill has decimated the area's fishing industry, local officials are now pleading for oil drilling moratoriums to be lifted for fear of further negative employment impacts. Safe to say, those people are so fucked either way now that their short term best interests are no longer reliable indicators of the best course forward.

  3. Federal law (a la Supreme Court) is that when a litigant has a right to appeal no federal appellate court may refuse to hear the case.

    The dissent in this 5th Circuit case has it right.

    Global warming is indisputable in the courts because the vast quantity of experts, including NOAA experts, will verify it.

    Like Cousteau said on Bill Maher last show, "the oceans can't take any more" abuse.

    The only defense BP (big pollution) will have is whether or not a particular, individual's claim is valid or not.

    So, it is asbestos & tobacco litigation time deja vu all over again.

    They denied but juries did not buy it, which will happen again, but the 5th Circuit is the last place one would have expected it to begin.