Cali cities using lawsuits to impose climate policies on Texas, Exxon tells Supreme Court
By David Yates
FORT WORTH – Earlier this year, a conflicted appellate court ruled it does not have jurisdiction over California cities and counties pursuing climate change lawsuits against the energy sector.
Now the Texas Supreme Court will ultimately decide if ExxonMobil has the authority to investigate those who allegedly orchestrated the litigation on its home turf.
On Oct. 2, Exxon filed a petition for review with the high court, arguing that the “potential defendants use tort suits to impose their preferred climate and energy policies on Texas.”
Exxon asserts Matt Pawa, a Hagens Berman attorney who is pursuing many of the cases on a contingency fee, recruits state attorneys general and applies the “Big Tobacco playbook” to sue in order “to suppress the speech of Texas-based energy companies.”
Exxon believes Pawa promoted his playbook to California municipalities, urging them to become potential plaintiffs in tort litigation against energy companies.
Exxon seeks to depose Pawa and the California municipalities to lay the groundwork for a counter-lawsuit.
“The potential defendants’ lawsuits ‘seek the environmental policy changes they desire’ in Texas by ‘enlisting the judiciary to do the work that the other two branches of government cannot or will not do,’” Exxon’s brief states. “In other words, the potential defendants seek to wrest Texas policy decisions from Texas citizens by diminishing the pocketbooks and stifling the speech of its industry.
“That is precisely the type of intentionally targeted conduct that gives rise to personal jurisdiction.”
Last January, Exxon filed a petition in Tarrant County District Court in response to the climate change litigation, seeking pre-suit discovery for a potential lawsuit against the California municipalities and officials and Pawa.
Exxon’s case against the California municipalities ended up in the Second Court of Appeals after a Texas judge found the cities and counties were hypocritical in suing Exxon.
The municipalities had claimed doom to their infrastructures will be caused by rising sea levels, but when issuing bond offers to potential investors, they had neglected to mention this alleged, near-certain destruction.
Exxon maintains the California climate change suits were crafted using a “playbook” to alter Big Oil’s viewpoint on climate change and pressure the oil industry through litigation to change to renewable energy.
The oil giant argued its suit against them belongs in Texas because they have purposeful contacts within the state.
However, on June 18 the Second Court found that was not enough to keep the litigation here, despite feeling an impulse to protect the energy sector.
Exxon is represented in part by attorneys Patrick Conlon, Ralph Duggins (Cantey Hanger) and Nina Cortell (Haynes and Boone).
Case No. 20-0558