Boulder poised to ask federal judge to move its climate change case back to home court

By William Sassani | Aug 1, 2018

DENVER (Legal Newsline) – A Colorado federal judge has approved a briefing schedule for determining a final location to hear a climate change lawsuit filed by local Colorado officials against two oil companies

In a minute order issued July 24 by the U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael E. Hegarty, the court approved the briefing schedule, which was followed shortly after by Boulder's motion to remand the case back to its home court. 

The city and county of Boulder and San Miguel County are suing ExxonMobil and Suncor Energy over the alleged effects of climate change. The companies have until Oct. 12 to respond.

However, the court did not approve an indefinite continuance of discovery and initial disclosures in the case. Instead, Hegarty said he preferred that that question would be up to whichever judge eventually presides over the case.

In the five-page motion issued in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado on July 20, both the plaintiffs and defendants Suncor Energy and ExxonMobil agreed to a schedule in regards to making a final decision as to whether the lawsuit should be moved to Boulder County District Court or stay in U.S. District Court for Colorado in Denver.

The motion acknowledges that the potential new court for this case, “has broad discretion to manage its cases to ensure their just and efficient adjudication.” This includes actions such as staying discovery and also vacating scheduling conference.   

The plaintiffs submitted a motion to remand, arguing that the federal court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. They plan to explain in more detail their reasoning during the briefing schedule already established.

The Colorado plaintiffs filed their lawsuit on April 17 in Boulder County District Court. Though the time to remove the case to federal court passed, the plaintiffs amended their lawsuit to add a claim for civil conspiracy.

Exxon and Suncor were then able to remove the case to the federal court in Denver on June 29. 

In their lawsuit, the Boulder plaintiffs argue that both ExxonMobil and Suncor should provide compensation for the costs of addressing climate change due to the burning of fossil fuels. ExxonMobil is one of the world's leading fossil fuel companies while Suncor has headquarters in Denver. 

The plaintiffs in this case are represented by EarthRights International in Washington, D.C.; the Niskanen Center in Washington, D.C., and the Hannon Law Firm in Denver. The Hannon firm would receive 20% of any recovery.

Suncor is represented by Wheeler Trigg O'Donnell in Denver and ExxonMobil is represented by Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton, and Garrison in New York City and Faegre Baker Daniels in Boulder.

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Faegre Baker Daniels U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado

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