Judge sides with Hoboken in climate lawsuit venue fight

Details: Judge John Michael Vazquez of the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, an Obama appointee, on Wednesday ordered the case sent back to state court.

“Ultimately, none of Defendants’ grounds for removal are sufficient for this Court to exercise subject-matter jurisdiction,” Vazquez wrote.

Like most other judges who have addressed this issue, Vazquez wrote that Hoboken’s lawsuit is not subject to “complete preemption” under the Clean Air Act or the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act and that no federal officer is implicated in the city’s suit. He rejected several other legal arguments made by the companies and ordered the matter back to a New Jersey court.

But Vazquez questioned whether Hoboken will succeed on the merits in state court, writing that “federal law may ultimately block Plaintiff’s claims through ordinary preemption.” However, he added, that is an issue for the state court to decide.

What’s next: Exxon Mobil, the lead defendant, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

However, the company is likely to appeal the matter to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit. Four other circuits are considering similar suits, but this would be the first such climate tort challenge in the 3rd Circuit. The Supreme Court in May ruled that appellate courts must review all of the arguments for removal to federal court in these cases.

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