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Charleston’s Climate Suit Is a Stalking Horse for the Green New Deal

October 11, 2023

Charleston’s climate change lawsuit is part of a nationwide effort by left wing activists to score policy wins (think Green New Deal) in the courtroom that would never prevail at the ballot box or in the halls of the conservative state legislatures.

The city’s lawsuit targets energy companies for supposed complicity in Lowcountry flooding. The scheme features liberal elites, dark money pass-throughs, and fortune-seeking trial lawyers.

These well-heeled forces are advancing an agenda Palmetto state voters would never adopt. The alliance between trial lawyers and left-wing cities is an increasingly prevalent tool progressives are using to advance liberal policies in red states, such as Ohio, Texas, and here in South Carolina. 

The outside law firm Charleston retained for its climate change case, Sher Edling LLP, is an essential player in the scheme to change America’s energy policy by judicial fiat. As my organization, Alliance for Consumers, has documented, Sher Edling represents plaintiffs in two dozen climate change lawsuits. 

The Sher Edling clientele is a menagerie of radical leftwing outposts. Baltimore, Oakland, and San Francisco are among their many municipal clients. Minnesota’s progressive attorney general Keith Ellison tapped the firm for Minnesota’s climate-nuisance suit. And Rhode Island’s Democratic U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, the field marshal of Democratic attacks on the legitimacy of the U.S. Supreme Court, has filed legal briefs supporting the firm while collecting thousands in campaign contributions from the firm’s named partners, Vic Sher and Matt Edling. 

This isn’t the sort of company the people of South Carolina usually choose to keep. 

But it gets worse. Leftwing jetsetters are financing much of Sher Edling’s work. A dark money entity, the Resources Legacy Fund (RLF), seeded the firm with $5.2 million to support its operations between 2017 and 2020.  Where did all this money come from? RLF raised millions via a subsidiary for climate change litigation from the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and the MacArthur Foundation.

Identifying these powerful forces behind Charleston’s lawsuit is important; it says a lot about what the city’s lawsuit is really about and where it will take the Palmetto State.

But the effects these lawsuits will have on everyday life should also sit squarely in people’s minds.  These “public nuisance” lawsuits imperil products that everyday consumers rely on day in and day out, from the gas they put in their cars, to the straws they put in their drinks, to the household appliances they chose for cooking and cleaning.

The nationwide campaign of climate-nuisance suits, which includes Charleston’s lawsuit, are meant to curtail fossil fuel production either by bankrupting energy companies, or by obtaining a court order to force them to “abate” climate change by shutting down oil and gas production.  

Charleston’s complaint is short on particulars, but other municipal climate plaintiffs are seeking as much as $50 billion.  $50 billion is the kind of money that ends industries, especially when spent to subsidize leftwing policy, as we saw with the Inflation Reduction Act.  

If the city wins, expect to see city authorities build EV-charging stations, subsidize electric cars, and institute a buy-back program for gas-powered appliances. Don’t forget: the city council has already authorized such a program for gas-powered leaf blowers, while Boulder, Colorado (another climate nuisance lawsuit plaintiff) is considering an outright ban on the use of natural gas in all city buildings. If you’re accustomed to such everyday experiences as a hot shower or a warm meal, buckle up. 

It is time for Palmetto state residents to wake up to the agenda Charleston is pushing.  For the countless families that don’t favor progressive lifestyle choices, lawsuits like these will reshape life from top to bottom.

Step up and demand that the state reign in Charleston here. Authorities in South Carolina can take steps to protect their constituents and amend state law to stop these kinds of claims. 

Lawmakers should take these steps quickly – Sher Edling and the Charleston city council shouldn’t dictate lifestyle choices for the rest of South Carolina. 


O.H. Skinner is the former Arizona Solicitor General and Executive Director of Alliance for Consumers, a nonprofit that ensures consumer protection efforts, class action lawsuits, and attorney general enforcement actions benefit everyday people, not lawyers and government bureaucrats. 

This article was originally published by RealClearEnergy and made available via RealClearWire.
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