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Michigan House GOP blasts Nessel plan to sue oil & gas industry

Attorney General Dana Nessel
Rick Pluta
Attorney General Dana Nessel

Republicans are pushing back against Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s plan to deputize private practice attorneys to pursue climate lawsuits. The deadline is Wednesday for law firms to submit proposals.

The Democratic attorney general said it’s a novel but perfectly legal way to employ private practice lawyers to hold oil and gas companies accountable for fossil fuels’ harm to the environment.

The specific harms Nessel alleges include massive storms and other drastic weather events related to climate change and economic damage such as shortened ski seasons.

“The fossil fuel industry, despite knowing about these consequences, prioritized profits over people and the environment,” Nessel said in a statement earlier this month “Pursuing this litigation will allow us to recoup our costs and hold those responsible for jeopardizing Michigan’s economic future and way of life accountable.”

But Republicans in the Legislature blasted the Attorney General for pursuing “a political agenda” unmoored from legal principles and going through the private sector instead of using state attorneys.

“It’s certainly a new strategy in Dana Nessel’s attempts to harass industries she doesn’t like, to try to find private parties to go after other private parties that she doesn’t hold in high regard,” said Michigan House Republican spokesperson Jeremiah Ward. “It’s political prosecution and she’s just trying to recruit other people to help her do it.”

Ward said there is little Republicans can do since the Legislature is controlled by Democrats.

The Attorney General’s website says proposals will be judged through a blind-bidding process that will guarantee anonymity through the selection process. Contracts will be awarded based on “qualifications, experience, abilities, capacity, and cost-effectiveness.” Attorneys will be compensated with a contingency fee based on a share of any court judgement or settlement.

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Rick Pluta is the managing editor for the Michigan Public Radio Network.
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