by Craig E. Richardson, E&E Legal President
As appearing on RealClear Energy
Sometimes the most important Supreme Court decisions are overlooked because of their technical nature. That is the case with the Supreme Court’s choice to hear jurisdictional claims in B.P. P.L.C., et al. v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore. The Court’s ruling will either allow cities to pursue superfluous nuisance claims against energy companies in state courts or limit the suits to federal courts that are less prone to accept broad liability claims.
These jurisdictional claims are significant because they set the appropriate scope of appellate review for these suits. Lawsuits predicated on federal laws and involving federal officers’ actions should be decided at the federal level. By agreeing to hear arguments in the Baltimore case, the Supreme Court is taking a crucial step towards setting a consistent legal playing field.
The Supreme Court will not rule on the merits of Baltimore’s claims. Instead, they will decide whether the defendants can appeal a jurisdictional claim after a federal court rejects it. Under existing law, it is clear the defendant can appeal aspects of the decision, but not whether the whole claim is fair game. A ruling in favor of the defendants would force multiple Circuit Courts to reevaluate their previous rulings and rehear jurisdictional claims by the energy companies.