January 27, 2021, Boulder, Colo. – This week, Judge Judith LaBuda of the Boulder County District Court ruled that the climate accountability lawsuit brought by Boulder County and the City of Boulder against fossil fuel companies will proceed in Boulder County court. Suncor Energy, one of the defendants, had sought to move the lawsuit to Denver. The court did rule, however, that some claims brought by San Miguel County would need to be heard in a different court. 

“The court here properly ruled that claims for climate injuries can be heard where the injuries occur, rather than in the companies’ chosen forum–and soundly rejected Suncor’s tactics,” said Marco Simons, General Counsel for EarthRights International, which is representing the municipalities in this case. “We do believe that it makes sense to hear the whole case together, however, and we continue to review this decision.” Suncor, a Canadian oil multinational that runs Colorado’s only refinery in Commerce City, argued that the case should be moved based on clauses the company inserted into asphalt supply contracts with San Miguel County after the case had already been filed in 2018. Judge LaBuda strongly rejected this attempt, noting that Suncor was “prohibited from directly communicating with San Miguel County about any matter related to this lawsuit”– a prohibition that the company violated.

Boulder County and the City of Boulder jointly issued the following statement: “We are pleased that this effort to defend the rights of our residents will proceed here in Boulder County, where the case belongs. After a year of climate-fueled wildfires and poor air quality, it is clear that the climate crisis is profoundly affecting our communities. These companies’ role in altering the climate should be considered by a Boulder County jury.”

San Miguel County Attorney Amy Markwell stated: “We are pleased that the court saw through Suncor’s attempt to use a routine supply contract to affect this litigation. While we believe it would be more efficient if all of our claims could be heard in Boulder County, we are glad the Court did not dismiss our case against Exxon and Suncor outright.  The residents of San Miguel County deserve the opportunity to hold these companies accountable for the damage they have contributed to our community.”

Because another defendant, Exxon Mobil, did not join Suncor’s motion, San Miguel County’s claims against Exxon will continue to proceed in Boulder County. In addition to EarthRights, the plaintiffs are represented by the Niskanen Center and the Hannon Law Firm, LLC.

Kate Fried
EarthRights International
(202) 257.0057