In the final weeks of 2022, the House Oversight Committee, under the previous Democratic leadership, concluded a 14-month investigation into whether energy companies misled the public about the impacts of oil and gas on the global climate.
After multiple hearings, cross-examination by committee members of energy company executives, and a review of millions of pages of documents, the committee was unable to uncover evidence of wrongdoing. The lessons learned from this investigation are relevant for numerous state and municipal climate lawsuits underway in the courts.
There are more than two dozen cases by state and local governments seeking to hold energy companies liable for the effects of climate change and alleging deception about the impact of carbon emissions on climate change. Contemporaneous government investigations often provide momentum and evidence to private litigation to aid plaintiffs, but in this case, it may do the opposite.
Meeting the evidentiary burden in these cases will require not merely proving the macro impact of human carbon emissions on global climate change, as difficult as that is, but will require evidence granularly linking particular defendants to particular impacts on plaintiffs. The House Oversight Committee investigated this question for over a year only to come up with nothing.
For the full story in The Washington Examiner, click here.
J.W. Verret ( @JWVerret ) is an associate professor at the George Mason University Antonin Scalia Law School.
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