News & Insights

Fourth Circuit Court Of Appeals Agrees Baltimore Climate Suit Belongs In State Court

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has affirmed a District Court order remanding to state court a suit filed by the City of Baltimore seeking to hold oil companies accountable for climate change.  In 2018, the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore filed suit against major oil companies in state court. The complaint alleged that the oil companies contributed to climate change by extracting, producing, promoting and selling fossil fuels, while deceiving the public about the known harms of fossil fuel products. Baltimore brought eight state law claims against the oil company, including nuisance and trespass.

In July 2018, the case was removed to federal district court in Maryland.  The City of Baltimore then filed a motion to remand the lawsuit back to state court which was granted by the federal district court. 

The defendant oil companies appealed the District Court ruling to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.  The companies argued the case presented uniquely federal issues and belongs in federal court because even though state claims are alleged, the suit seeks to regulate interstate emissions.

Rejecting this argument, the Fourth Circuit found the suit does not seek to modify any regulations, laws, or treaties or to establish national or global standards for greenhouse gas emissions.  Rather, the Fourth Circuit held, the suit seeks damages and abatement of the nuisance within Baltimore.