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Borrowing from the playbook that won multibillion-dollar awards against Big Tobacco, five California cities and counties sued the oil giants last year, claiming they deceived the public for decades about the dangers of fossil fuel production.

 

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — The fate of five lawsuits seeking to hold the world’s biggest oil companies liable for global climate change hinges on a murky jurisdictional question that could get some cases booted out of federal court.

For the past eight days, attorneys for more than a dozen oil companies urged two federal judges not to send lawsuits against them back to state court, where five California cities and counties sued Big Oil last year.

“The extraordinary nature of these claims encompasses conduct across the globe,” the oil companies’ attorney Theodore Boutrous said in court Thursday. “We think the federal courts need to hear this, because it’s uniquely federal.”

Borrowing from the playbook that won multibillion-dollar awards against Big Tobacco, five California cities and counties sued the oil giants last year, claiming they deceived the public for decades about the dangers of fossil fuel production.

San Mateo and Marin Counties, along with the city of Imperial Beach in San Diego County, were the first localities to sue the oil giants in July 2017. Oakland and San Francisco followed up in September 2017, suing the oil giants on behalf of the people of California. The lawsuits were removed from state court to federal court last year.

The defendants include BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell and others.

Oakland and San Francisco last week asked U.S. District Judge William Alsup to send their lawsuits back to state court. The cities and counties say the cases belong in a state venue because only state law claims, primarily public nuisance, are alleged in their complaints.

On Thursday, another federal judge, Vince Chhabria, heard the same arguments from San Mateo, Marin and Imperial Beach.

During both hearings, Boutrous argued that because the oil companies’ alleged misconduct is national and international in scope, the cases belong in federal court.

“They’re seeking to regulate national and international speech,” Boutrous told Alsup on Feb. 7. “California cannot do that. State law cannot do that. That’s why federal law, if anything, would govern the alleged misrepresentations.”

Boutrous said the state law claims are preempted by federal common law and federal statutes, such as the Clean Air Act.

But Victor Sher, representing the municipalities, said the plaintiffs are not trying to regulate speech or emissions. Rather, they want compensation to cover the costs of sea walls and other projects needed to combat the consequences of climate change.

“These are not cases that seek to regulate emissions,” Sher said in court Thursday.

When asked in an interview why the oil companies are so determined to keep these cases out of state court, University of San Francisco law professor Alice Kaswan suggested the oil giants probably believe a federal judge is more likely to rule in their favor on federal preemption.

“It’s possible the oil companies think it’s more likely the federal courts will find state law is preempted or find another reason the courts don’t have jurisdiction over the case,” Kaswan said.

She added that state court judges tend to be more familiar with state common law claims, including public nuisance claims. State judges might be viewed as more willing to wade into the intricacies of state common law, which is based on judicial precedent rather than written statutes, she said.

“Federal courts may be more resistant to making determinations based purely on judge-made law,” Kaswan said. “State courts may be somewhat more comfortable playing that role, and perhaps less likely to boot the cases out of court.”

The 2011 Supreme Court ruling in American Electric Power Company v. Connecticut held that corporations cannot be sued for greenhouse gas emissions under federal common law because the Clean Air Act preempts federal common law claims.

But that ruling left open the question of whether the Clean Air Act also preempts state common law claims for harms caused by greenhouse gas emissions, Kaswan said.

On the issue of state versus federal jurisdiction, the two federal judges grappling with that question hinted that they could issue divergent opinions on the subject.

Last week, Alsup suggested that remanding the cases to state court could lead to a hodgepodge of litigation with vastly different outcomes, depending on each state’s public nuisance law.

“I have a concern,” Alsup said. “If we allow this case to go to state court, then all 50 states could have their own version of this case, and the results might be different from state to state, depending on how their law is written for nuisance.”

But Chhabria said Thursday that the oil companies’ argument was based on the seemingly unsupported position that state court judges cannot resolve questions of federal preemption.

“The big part of your presentation is an assumption that the state court system is not capable of fairly adjudicating a question of federal preemption,” Chhabria said.

If the litigation does advance beyond issues of jurisdiction and federal preemption, Kaswan said, the plaintiffs will face another daunting challenge: proving that the oil companies’ conduct caused or substantially contributed to climate change and rising sea levels.

“I do think there will be a lot of interesting questions about causation and proximate causation — if there’s some link, and if it’s enough of a link in that context,” Kaswan said. “Those will be very difficult questions.”

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Big Oil’s Global Warming Case Could Hinge on Jurisdiction was first posted on February 17, 2018 at 2:19 pm.
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Big Oil takes stage for post-austerity beauty contest http://royaldutchshellplc.com/2018/02/12/big-oil-takes-stage-for-post-austerity-beauty-contest/ http://royaldutchshellplc.com/2018/02/12/big-oil-takes-stage-for-post-austerity-beauty-contest/#respond Mon, 12 Feb 2018 10:07:53 +0000 http://royaldutchshellplc.com/?p=95631 Big Oil takes stage for post-austerity beauty contest was first posted on February 12, 2018 at 11:07 am.
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Ron Bousso: 12 FEB 2018

LONDON (Reuters) – With years of austerity in their rear-view mirrors, the world’s biggest oil companies are locked in a beauty contest to lure investors with promises of growth and greater rewards. Royal Dutch Shell and Total are emerging as frontrunners after a three-year slump thanks to strong growth projections but Exxon Mobil, the biggest publicly traded oil company, has largely disappointed with a weaker outlook. FULL ARTICLE

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Ads will attack de Blasio’s lawsuits against oil companies http://royaldutchshellplc.com/2018/02/12/ads-will-attack-de-blasios-lawsuits-against-oil-companies/ http://royaldutchshellplc.com/2018/02/12/ads-will-attack-de-blasios-lawsuits-against-oil-companies/#comments Mon, 12 Feb 2018 09:57:20 +0000 http://royaldutchshellplc.com/?p=95623 Ads will attack de Blasio’s lawsuits against oil companies was first posted on February 12, 2018 at 10:57 am.
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De Blasio announced last month that the city had filed a lawsuitagainst BP, Chevron, Conoco-Phillips, ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell, claiming their fossil fuels produce 11 percent of the Earth’s global-warming gases.

The suit “seeks to shift the costs of protecting the city from climate-change impacts back onto the companies that have done nearly all they could to create this existential threat.”

City Hall spokesman Eric Phillips slammed the new campaign.

“Shadowy groups funded by Big Oil won’t keep the mayor from fighting for our planet and city’s future,” he said.

FULL ARTICLE

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Shell Commits to Expanding Gas Stations as Some Rivals Retreat http://royaldutchshellplc.com/2018/02/10/shell-commits-to-expanding-gas-stations-as-some-rivals-retreat/ http://royaldutchshellplc.com/2018/02/10/shell-commits-to-expanding-gas-stations-as-some-rivals-retreat/#respond Sat, 10 Feb 2018 13:07:59 +0000 http://royaldutchshellplc.com/?p=95606 Shell Commits to Expanding Gas Stations as Some Rivals Retreat was first posted on February 10, 2018 at 2:07 pm.
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Istvan Kapitany, head of Shell’s global retail business

By Kevin Orland: 9 February 2018

(Bloomberg) — While many oil producers are stepping back from their retail operations, Royal Dutch Shell Plc is doubling down.

Shell, which has about 44,000 filling stations around the world, opened its first one in Mexico last year, the start of $1 billion in investments over the next decade. Shell also is ramping up spending in China, India, Indonesia and Russia, Istvan Kapitany, head of Shell’s global retail business, said in an interview in Calgary.

Even Canada, where other companies have recently sold their retail operations, will see increasing investments. Shell added 50 gas stations in the country last year, bringing its total to about 1,300, and plans to build another 50 this year while also rolling out new features to capture more of drivers’ retail dollars and building up its business for commercial customers, he said.

“We have very, very ambitious growth plans, and Canada is part of that,” Kapitany said in an interview in Calgary.

Meanwhile, others have been leaving. Chevron Corp. last year sold its gas stations and a refinery in British Columbia for about $1.1 billion. Imperial Oil Ltd., majority owned by Exxon Mobil Corp., sold almost 500 company-owned stations to a group of five fuel distributors for $2.1 billion in 2016.

U.S. Market

In the U.S., Sunoco LP sold its gas stations last year, following in the footsteps of ConocoPhillips, Hess Corp. and Valero Energy Corp. While people associate energy producers like Exxon and Chevron with the stations that bear their names, most of those are franchises in the U.S. and oil majors only own a small fraction of them.

Among other producers holding on to their retail businesses are Marathon Petroleum Corp., which rejected a push from billionaire Paul Singer’s Elliott Management Corp. to spin it off, and BP Plc, which like Shell is expanding its presence in retail.

A key to Shell’s strategy is tailoring the stations to regional preferences. For example, in Canada, the Hague-based company is planning to announce a program to increase its healthy food offerings in the coming weeks. In Mexico, Shell touts its guarantee that customers are actually getting all the fuel they paid for, an important promise in a market where fraud at the pump is a problem.

‘Local Culture’

“Local customer demands have to be satisfied by a strong local team that understands the local culture,” Kapitany said. “In this business, there are no global customers. The customer is always local.”

Having robust refining and retail operations, also known as downstream businesses in industry parlance, has been particularly beneficial in Canada recently. That’s because a lack of pipeline capacity has weighed on Canadian oil prices, hurting companies who produce crude but benefiting those that can benefit from the cheaper feedstock.

For Shell, the retail business also is an important means for helping the company adapt to a changing energy world. Shell is building networks of electric-car charging stations in multiple locations while also rolling out locations for fuel-cell and natural gas-powered vehicles. Electric mobility will expand over the coming decades, and Shell needs to play a part in that transition to keep serving its customers, Kapitany said.

“This is what we have been doing for 100 years, and this is most likely what we’re going to be doing for the next 100 years,” he said.

Bloomberg
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Canadian shale boom triggers quakes in Alberta town as frackers rush to drill new wells http://royaldutchshellplc.com/2018/02/09/canadian-shale-boom-triggers-quakes-in-alberta-town-as-frackers-rush-to-drill-new-wells/ http://royaldutchshellplc.com/2018/02/09/canadian-shale-boom-triggers-quakes-in-alberta-town-as-frackers-rush-to-drill-new-wells/#respond Fri, 09 Feb 2018 21:10:14 +0000 http://royaldutchshellplc.com/?p=95584 Canadian shale boom triggers quakes in Alberta town as frackers rush to drill new wells was first posted on February 9, 2018 at 10:10 pm.
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Communities like Fox Creek, Alberta, are feeling the economic benefits of the shale boom, along with fracking-linked earthquakes. 

Drilling has been so intense near Fox Creek, Alberta that it’s been linked to a series of earthquakes.Brennan Linsley/AP Photo

Bloomberg News: Robert Tuttle: February 9, 2018: 12:59 PM EST

In the Western Alberta town of Fox Creek, roughnecks shuffle through hotel lobbies, freight trucks choke slushy streets and, every once in a while, tremors shake the earth.

Welcome to Canada’s biggest shale boom. Chevron Corp., Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Encana Corp., Murphy Oil Corp. and XTO Energy Inc. are among those flocking to Fox Creek to stake their claim in the oil-rich Duvernay shale formation. 

Here, the prize is condensate, an ultra-light oil that’s perfect for diluting the heavy tar-sands crude for which Alberta is known. More locally produced diluent would be a plus for Canadian companies that now depend on the U.S. — and for communities like Fox Creek that are feeling the economic benefits along with fracking-linked earthquakes. More of both may be in the offing as drillers flock in Chevron’s wake into the Duvernay region.

“They are talking about thousands of new wells up there, not just Chevron, but all of them,” Mayor Jim Hailes said during an interview in his office. “The play is that big.”

OIL AND GAS BOOM

Domestic companies use around 600,000 barrels of condensate a day, and production of the hydrocarbon in Alberta is surging. Output reached 64,000 barrels a day last year, the highest in provincial production records dating back to 2010. In the Duvernay, oil and gas output is poised to more than triple in the next two years to the equivalent of 300,000 barrels of oil a day, according to Stephen Kallir, upstream research analyst at Wood Mackenzie in Calgary.

The pace of activity is only getting busier after Chevron, which owns the most drilling rights in the area, announced plans to develop about 55,000 acres (22,000 hectares) of land in the so-called East Kaybob section of the Duvernay, near Fox Creek. Other companies are expected to follow suit, Hailes said.

MIXED BLESSING

The Kaybob section already holds 80 per cent of Duvernay wells and accounted for 90 per cent of the formation’s production, according to an October BMO Capital Markets report. The majority of the play can be economically produced for US$55 a barrel, Wood Mackenzie’s Kallir said.

That’s a mixed blessing for Fox Creek, Mayor Hailes explained as he drove his Toyota Highlander through the town, pointing to the fruits of the area’s newfound fortune. On the left is a new US$8 million fire house. To the right, a US$32 million recreational centre and multiplex are going up. Farther down the road are new ski trails and a bicycle track.

On the other hand, drilling has been so intense near Fox Creek that it’s been linked to a series of earthquakes. One tremor measured 4.6 in magnitude, one of the two biggest human-induced seismic event in Canada’s history, Honn Kao, research scientist at the Geological Survey of Canada, said by phone. Madrid-based oil producer Repsol S.A. took responsibility for that one, telling Bloomberg that the quake was triggered by its hydraulic fracturing operations in the area.

As a result, the company has put into place protocols to mitigate quakes, Berta Gomez, a spokeswoman, said it an email.

QUAKE FEARS

Local concerns about the quakes prompted Chevron recently to alter plans to drill two horizontal wells right under the town, which is thought to sit right over the Duvernay’s “sweet spot.”

“Chevron takes the concerns of residents seriously,” Leif Sollid, a company spokesman, said in an email. “This area is assessed as a lower risk region within the Duvernay for induced seismicity, and any related events would be feeble to slight in nature.”

Other worries, according to Hailes, include the thousands of trucks that pass down the highway each day, some of them spilling their cargoes of fine sand integral to fracturing wells. Meanwhile, the work camps that surround Fox Creek sometimes house almost five times more people than the town itself, putting pressure on local resources such as the hospital and fire department, Hailes said.

“When I, as a resident, pay taxes, go to pick up a prescription, the line is out the damn door,” Brenda English, a realtor with RE/MAX Advantage and resident of the town since 1975, said in an interview from her office. “It’s insane.”

Still, the Duvernay’s promises are too good to ignore. First explored in 2011, the formation holds the equivalent of 25 years of Alberta’s natural gas production and 17 years light oil and condensate output, according to Canada’s National Energy Board.

“The term they are using is a ‘generational play,’” Hailes said.

Bloomberg.com

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