Democratic politicians and environmental activists claim any attempt to limit frivolous climate change lawsuits are really nefarious schemes to protect the wealthy and powerful. In reality, the litigation they defend supports their own wealthy and powerful backers.
Six California cities and counties recirculated a letter last week that argued a business-backed plan to deal with climate change is not enough. Many corporations have offered concessions, such as the acceptance of a carbon fine and carbon dividends, in the Baker-Schulz Carbon Dividends Plan.
That plan is insufficient, according to these California municipalities. “Wealthy, powerful corporations should not get to decide whether they are subject to the same laws as everyone else,” the letter says. The letter was signed by the cities of Imperial Beach, Richmond, and Santa Clara, along with Marin County, San Mateo County, and Santa Clara County.
All six municipalities have filed lawsuits against energy companies, and they’re not exactly Little Guy America. San Mateo and Marin Counties are home to some of the wealthiest people in America. The median household income in San Mateo is $108,627; it’s $103,845 in Marin.
Most of the “David” municipalities who have sued the wealthy and powerful “Goliaths” are comprised of wealthy and powerful constituents with counter-interests. Other locales that have filed climate litigation include New York City, San Francisco, and Boulder, Colorado—all places of wealth, power, and privilege.
Similarly, the lawsuits are backed by the wealthy and powerful. One of the leading players in climate change litigation is the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Nothing better represents the little guy than the Rockefeller brand. The Rockefellers lavished the Niskanen Center, which is serving as co-counsel on multiple climate change lawsuits, with $200,000 in 2018. Another lawsuit proponent, EarthRights International, touts the Rockefeller Brothers Fund as one of its primary funders.
The Rockefeller Brothers Fund also served as a major donor to lawyer Matt Pawa’s Global Warming Legal Action Project, which aimed to “develop and apply a tort law approach to global warming that will require major greenhouse gas emitters and fossil fuel companies to internalize the costs of their contributions to global warming.”
Another wealthy donor to these lawsuits is liberal billionaire Tom Steyer. Steyer’s super PAC, NextGen Climate Action, has played an instrumental role in pushing litigation against Exxon. Steyer, of course, is heavily invested in so-called green and alternative energy companies. The group was briefed on the legal strategy in 2015 and then-New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sought campaign contributions from Steyer as a reward for his lawsuit against Exxon. Steyer has denied any involvement in the lawsuits, but the evidence says otherwise.
And no left-wing action would be complete without support from billionaire George Soros, who got rich manipulating currency markets and who has invested billions attempting to do the same with energy markets. Soros’s Open Society Foundations is a major donor to EarthRights International, contributing six-figure donations to the climate activist group every year. Soros-backed district attorneys are pursuing “climate justice.” One such person is Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg. Ogg has brought charges against Arkema North America for “poison[ing] our environment” after chemicals at the company’s facility exploded during Hurricane Harvey. Ogg received a $500,000 campaign contribution from Soros in 2016.
There also exists evidence that Russia—the great liberal bogeyman—may be involved in some of these efforts. Russia has actively supported anti-fracking propaganda to benefit its own energy interests.
Climate litigation is not the David versus Goliath struggle its advocates envision. It’s a shady alliance of liberal and left-wing billionaires, radical environmental groups, and wealthy municipalities trying to harm America’s energy industry. The real little guys who will be hurt are the thousands of Americans who will lose good paying jobs and the millions of Americans who will lose access to affordable energy sources should these lawsuits succeed. Americans will pay far more for energy, jobs will be lost, and we will rely more on foreign resources in the aftermath.
The only people who would gain are foreign nations, overzealous bureaucrats, and self-satisfied coastal elites. Don’t believe the faux-populism ginned up by the fanatics behind these lawsuits.
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