By David N. Taylor
Recent opinion content making its rounds in state papers reveals that the national campaign to sue U.S. energy companies for the effects of global climate change has chosen Pennsylvania as its next target. These climate lawsuits have failed in other states because they are without merit.
The Clean Air Council and other proponents of climate litigation argue that the Commonwealth and our local governments should sue energy producers for costs associated with the global and local effects of climate change. But right off the bat, these arguments fundamentally misrepresent Pennsylvania’s manufacturing and energy sectors.
The litigation-seekers are quick to villainize the productive sector. Manufacturing directly employs roughly 565,000 Pennsylvanians, generates $100 billion in economic growth every year, and provides the best wages and benefits in the marketplace. The energy sector creates approximately 420,000 jobs and contributes $75 billion in economic growth. Additionally, our energy producers pay impact fees that directly fund environmental adaptation programs, like the Marcellus Legacy Fund, which help to pay for local and statewide community environmental, infrastructure, and recreational initiatives.
Suing companies for providing an essential product – energy – that enables people across the country to grow food, drive cars, power industry, and heat homes is nonsensical. Lawsuits like these only make the cost and liability associated with producing energy more expensive, and these costs will be inevitably passed on to consumers. The only winners are a small cohort of plaintiffs’ attorneys who stand to make tens of millions in fees if just one of the dozens of climate lawsuits filed across the country is successful.
Moreover, abusing the judicial system to hike household energy costs for Pennsylvanians does absolutely nothing to address the effects of global climate change. In fact, lawsuits shift attention and resources away from the practical, innovative solutions our manufacturing and energy sectors are currently deploying to continue to lower emissions.
The companies that climate litigation supporters hope to put out of business are the same companies that America relies on to lead the way towards feasible solutions, as Pennsylvania’s energy and manufacturing businesses have done for over a century. Pennsylvania companies have already contributed to dramatic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. by playing a pivotal role in expanding natural gas production, and given that production in the Marcellus Shale has the lowest GHG intensity in the country, the state is well positioned to drive further environmental and economic progress.
Additionally, thanks to a historic tax cut and renewed demand for domestic manufacturing, Pennsylvania is primed for an economic resurgence. With our natural resources, technical capabilities, world-class workers, and closeness to regional markets across the Midwest and the East Coast, Pennsylvania is a top-tier candidate for investment in large-scale projects ranging from shale development to industrial carbon capture to producing zero-sulfur transportation fuel. But filing frivolous lawsuits against homegrown energy producers will wrongly signal that our state is hostile to investment. An anti-business legal environment would kneecap our state’s entire manufacturing economy, wind and solar included.
Unfortunately, these organizations are no stranger to the misuse of Pennsylvania’s civil justice system. The Clean Air Council frequently embarks on bogus litigation efforts to strip energy producers of their licenses to operate. From attempting to block pipelines that safely transport oil and natural gas across the country to calling on the EPA to effectively end fossil fuels immediately, the group does everything it can to thwart American energy production, harming businesses and consumers in the process.
This time around, Clean Air Council is pushing climate lawsuits in collaboration with the D.C. based activist group the Center for Climate Integrity (CCI), a billionaire-funded organization on a mission to lure as many states and municipalities as possible to file suit, with a goal of ultimately choking the industry with so much litigation that it can no longer viably function.
But Pennsylvanians know better. Manufacturers – and the energy producers who power us – are core to Pennsylvania’s economy, workforce, and technological competitive advantage. Other states have seen right through CCI’s litigation pitch, too – as one local Maine official said when CCI came knocking on her town’s door, filing a climate lawsuit would be “like we’re suing ourselves.”
There’s a reason why these lawsuits haven’t been successful to date. Pennsylvania employers and lawmakers should stand up to the outside interests that are trying to undermine our economic progress, energy security, and consumer choices.
David N. Taylor is the President & CEO of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association and also a member of the Board of Directors of The Susquehanna Valley Center for Public Policy.
Nothing contained here should be considered as an attempt to aid or hinder the passage of any legislation.
The views expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Susquehanna Valley Center.