inside sources print logo
Get up to date Delaware Valley news in your inbox

Bucks Commissioner DiGirolamo Withdraws Support for County Lawsuit Targeting Big Oil

Last month, the three Bucks County commissioners entered the national debate over climate policy by filing a lawsuit against the world’s major oil companies, blaming them for local damages allegedly caused by global warming. It’s part of a coordinated strategy by green activists hoping to use local courts to either damage the fossil fuel industry or force a massive payout similar to the tobacco industry settlement in 1998.

On Wednesday, Republican Commissioner Gene DiGirolamo backed out.

“Madame Chair, I have considered this for the past seven or eight days,” said DiGirolamo. “And at this point, I would like to withdraw my support for the lawsuit.”

There was some scattered applause from the audience.

Bucks County is far from alone. Similar lawsuits have been filed by state and local jurisdictions from Hawaii to California to Delaware. In Wilmington, a Superior Court judge set aside key elements of the lawsuit attempting to declare global energy companies a “public nuisance” in The First State.

Critics of the aggressive litigation strategy say it’s intentionally abusing the legal system by forcing a federal issue into state courts. In response, 20 state attorneys general this week asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene.

During public comment, Bucks County resident Ed Mackhouse said the oil companies are being sued because they have money and not because they bear responsibility for “the climate hoax.”

“Where is this coming from that Bucks County is going to sue oil companies?” asked Andy Warren, a former Bucks County commissioner. “We’ve got to have more substantial things about Bucks County than to start a crusade about oil companies.”

Warminster resident Beth Curcio said, “I’m not surprised you would look for the press by suing the oil companies. The very companies that make your clothes, shoes, furniture, heat your homes, run all your transportation — I could go on forever. Over the years it’s become cleaner and safer to transport through pipelines.”

DiGiralomo could not immediately be reached for comment.

In response to complaints about the use of county resources, Chair Diane Ellis-Marseglia said the lawyers handling the lawsuit against the oil companies are working on a contingency basis so the county will not have to pay legal fees unless it wins damages.

Vice Chair Robert Harvie Jr. pushed back on the criticisms from the public, as well asDiGirolamo’s announcement.

“A comment was made, ‘Why does this matter?’

“It matters because… in the next 16 years, Pennsylvania municipalities are expected to spend $16.5 billion to deal with issues regarding climate change, extreme heat, extreme precipitation, rising sea levels, or, in our case, river levels. That includes $1.2 billion in air conditioning in schools, including $6 million in air conditioning added to schools just in Bensalem Township.”

Harvie said towns that border the Delaware River could spend $172 million on flood control.

“We’ve already seen a 5 to 10 percent increase in rainfall over the past several years,” he said. “It’s really about a negligence issue.”

However, Dr. Bjorn Lomborg of the Copenhagen Consensus Center and a leading academic on climate change policy says impacts from climate disaster have been overstated. He notes the number of hurricanes making landfall in the U.S. has declined over the past century and the relative cost of flood damage in America is one-tenth what it was in the early 1900s.

“The cost of climate-related disasters has dropped five-fold since 1980,” Lomborg adds.

Bucks County Sues World’s Oil Producers Over Local Impacts of Climate Change

The Bucks County commissioners announced Monday they are suing some of the world’s largest global oil producers over the local effects of climate change in Bensalem and Yardley.

The lawsuit, filed in Common Pleas Court against BP, Chevron, Conoco Phillips, Exxon Mobil, Shell, and the American Petroleum Institute, claims they knew their product was causing climate change and failed to warn the public. Bucks County argues that those companies should be held liable for the local impacts of warmer temperatures.

“In recent years, we have experienced unprecedented weather events here in Bucks County that have repeatedly put residents and first responders in harm’s way, damaged public and private property, and placed undue strain on our infrastructure,” said Commissioner Chair Diane Ellis-Marseglia (D). “We’re already seeing the human and financial tolls of climate change beginning to mount, and if the oil companies’ own data is to be believed, the trend will continue.”

Bucks County is “following the model established in suits (it) brought against PFAS manufacturers, social media giants, and opioid companies. This complaint seeks to shift the financial burden of the climate crisis from the taxpayers of Bucks County to the companies responsible for creating the crisis,” according to a statement from the county.

At least eight states and more than two dozen local governments have filed similar lawsuits.

Critics, like David N. Taylor, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association, have accused the county of political posturing that is unconnected to reality.

“Suing oil and gas companies for providing an essential product that not only enables modern life but drives significant economic growth in our state is nonsensical and will result in higher costs for manufacturers, businesses, and consumers alike,” Taylor said.

“It’s unfortunate Bucks County took the bait of a copy-and-paste-lawsuit pushed by out-of-state activists and billionaire hypocrites over the well-being of Pennsylvanians.”

But commissioners from both parties supported the lawsuit.

“These companies have known since at least the 1950s that their ways of doing business were having calamitous effects on our planet, and rather than change what they were doing or raise the alarm, they lied to all of us,” said Republican Commissioner Gene DiGirolamo. “The taxpayers should not have to foot the bill for these companies and their greed.”

“This suit is our tool to recoup costs and fund public works projects like bolstering or replacing bridges, retrofitting county-owned buildings, and commencing stormwater management projects, all of which will put us in the best possible position to weather what is certain to come,” Ellis-Marseglia added.

Can a company whose product is being used in every nation in the world be held responsible for alleged local consequences from impacts on global climate?

A Delaware judge took a dim view of that legal strategy and tossed out significant parts of a similar case. On Jan. 9, Delaware Superior Court Judge Mary Miller Johnston ruled the Clean Air Act preempts Delaware’s core allegations for public nuisance, trespass, and failure to warn since it sought damages for activity resulting from out-of-state or global greenhouse gas emissions. Delaware can only proceed with claims proving alleged injuries were the cause of emissions from sources within the state. Prevailing with that claim isn’t possible in this case. The judge found that in-state Delaware emissions cannot have a material effect on the global nature of climate change.

Energy companies argue addressing climate change and public policy is a job for the federal government, not local governments.

“Addressing climate change requires a coordinated international policy response, not meritless local litigation over lawful and essential energy production,” said Theodore J. Boutrous, Jr. of Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher, counsel for Chevron Corporation.

Others in the energy sector accused Bucks County of hypocrisy.

“Bucks County and its elected county officials have relied on oil and natural gas for decades to meet their transportation needs and to power their once-mighty steel industrial base,” said Curt Schroder, executive director of Pennsylvania Coalition for Civil Justice Reform. “Yet the commissioners have filed climate change litigation for a situation they helped cause. When can we expect all county-owned vehicles to be electric or all the county buildings to be powered by renewables?

“One would expect such actions to follow immediately upon the heels of the action taken by the county leaders. Pennsylvanians already pay a hefty ‘tort tax’ that goes right into the pockets of out-of-state trial lawyers, and this lawsuit will only raise costs even higher for hard-working people across the state – all without advancing real climate solutions. Lawsuits targeting the lawful production of energy are an abuse of our state’s civil justice system and an end-run around the democratic process,” Schroder added.

And both supporters and opponents of the legislation agree that a Bucks County lawsuit isn’t going to solve the problem of climate change.

“These local lawsuits do nothing to address our real energy challenges. In fact, lawsuits like this actually undercut Pennsylvania’s role in addressing climate change. Electric sector-related emissions have plummeted in recent years as more natural gas has come online to meet our growing power demands,” said Kurt Knaus, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Energy Infrastructure Alliance.

“That has led to cleaner air across our commonwealth. The United States is reducing greenhouse gas emissions faster than any other country in the world, an achievement tied to our emergence as the world’s top natural gas producer.

“The timing of this lawsuit has little to do with environmental concerns and everything to do with concerns over the coming election,” Knaus said.


Please follow DVJournal on social media: Twitter@DVJournal or

Biden Adamant, PA Dems Silent on Windfall Tax Targeting Energy Companies

With the 1980 election approaching, a desperate President Jimmy Carter — underwater in the polls — signed into law the Crude Oil Windfall Profits Tax Act. It put a 70 percent tax on the “excess profits” from selling a barrel of oil for more than $12.81 (about $46 today). His goal was to bring down record gas and energy prices.

It didn’t work.

On Monday President Joe Biden — who was serving his second term in the U.S. Senate in 1980 — turned to the same strategy in similar circumstances. He urged Congress to pass a bill taxing oil and gas producers for what he calls “windfall profits.”

“Their profits are a windfall of war, the windfall from the brutal conflict that’s ravaging Ukraine and hurting tens of millions of people around the globe,” Biden said.

It is an idea many economists say is counterproductive to the goal of lowering consumer costs.

Economist Larry Summers served in both the Clinton and Obama administrations.

“I’m not sure (I) understand the argument for a windfall profits tax on energy companies,” he said via Twitter. “If you reduce profitability, you will discourage investment which is the opposite of our objective.”

Not surprisingly, the energy industry opposes the idea.

“Rather than taking credit for price declines and shifting blame for price increases, the Biden administration should get serious about addressing the supply and demand imbalance that has caused higher gas prices and created long-term energy challenges,” American Petroleum Institute president and CEO Mike Sommers said in a statement. “Oil companies do not set prices—global commodities markets do. Increasing taxes on American energy discourages investment in new production, which is the exact opposite of what is needed. American families and businesses are looking to lawmakers for solutions, not campaign rhetoric.”

And then there is the political question: How can you say you’re trying to lower the price of gas and heating oil when you are raising taxes on the companies who produce it?

Pennsylvania Democrats appear to have their doubts. None of the candidates contacted by Delaware Valley Journal about Biden’s proposal would respond to questions. That includes Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and Reps. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Chester/Berks), Mary Gay Scanlon (Delaware/Philadelphia), Madeleine Dean (D-Montgomery/Berks).

But Fetterman has called out oil companies in the past, accusing them of “gouging” consumers and suggesting legal restrictions on how they invest their profits.

“Big Oil just made another round of record profits by gouging Americans at the gas pump,” Fetterman said last week. “And instead of investing that money in American energy production and lowering costs for families, companies are paying themselves through stock buybacks and keeping prices high to line their own pockets. This practice should be severely restricted.”

“Gas still costs almost $4 a gallon in Pennsylvania. We need lower prices now, and we need to take action,” Fetterman said.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, Fetterman’s GOP opponent, did not respond to a request for comment.

Republican Guy Ciarrocchi, who is challenging Houlahan, said attempting to regulate and restrict your way to lower energy costs makes no sense.

“Congresswoman Houlahan and her allies have allowed Biden to go down this dangerous path of angry rhetoric, higher taxes, and strangling American energy production,” said Republican Guy Ciarrocchi.   “Thankfully, the answer is energy right in our grasp—in Alaska, the Dakotas, Canada, the Gulf, and even here in Pennsylvania. We can increase supply, lower prices, create jobs, improve the environment and make us safe from tyrants and dictators.

“Biden and Houlahan won’t do it. But I’m going to be part of a Republican Congress that will force (Biden) into reality,” Ciarrocchi added.

Analysis of Carter’s 1980 windfall profits tax found that it decreased domestic energy production and increased reliance on imported oil. According to the Congressional Research Service, the tax reduced domestic production by as much as 8 percent from 1980 to 1988 when it was repealed in part because “it made the United States more dependent on foreign oil.”

Please follow DVJournal on social media: Twitter@DVJournal or

LIEBERMAN: Who NOT To Blame For High Gasoline Prices

Whenever the price at the pump increases, so does the finger-pointing, but much of the blame game over high gasoline prices is neither accurate nor fair and, most importantly, won’t lead to real solutions. Here are several false targets of America’s anger at record-prices:

1.  Gas Station Owners – Despite the big Exxon or Shell or other major oil company sign hanging above many of the gas stations where people fill up, most of these stations are franchise businesses. Proprietors set the price based on market conditions, including what their next gasoline delivery will cost them, not some secret phone call from corporate headquarters.

Ironically, gas stations may actually do worse in times of high pump prices, since they enjoy much bigger profit margins on the sodas, snacks, smokes, and other things motorists purchase than they do for gasoline. But at current gas prices customers have less money left over for extras.

2.  Oil Companies – Candidate Joe Biden repeatedly promised to curtail domestic oil drilling

for the sake of addressing climate change and started making good on that promise from day one.   But now he accuses the industry of holding back on supplies and has launched a  Federal Trade Commission investigation into the matter.

To be sure, if oil companies were the ones that had decided to halt new drilling on federal lands in Alaska (as well as the lower 48 and offshore) or refused to build the Keystone XL Pipeline and other needed infrastructure projects, the president might have a credible case of industry deliberately squeezing supplies in order to boost prices. But it is his own administration that did all these things.

3. Electric Vehicle Skeptics – Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, and others in the administration have touted electric vehicles (EVs) as a way to laugh your way past the gas station; and they have hinted that EV non-believers are part of the problem. But even with gasoline prices setting records, EVs still have major drawbacks of their own. This includes: sticker prices $15,000 or more above comparable gasoline-powered cars, relatively limited range, and long charging times. In addition, electricity prices are also headed up due to some of the same Biden administration climate change policies impacting gasoline prices. And reliability is growing issue. Anyone who has suffered through a power blackout lately will think twice about buying an EV. For these reasons,  EVs only sell to the extent they are heavily subsidized (up to $7,500 in federal tax credits, as well as several state incentives) and even then have captured less than 5 percent of the new vehicles market.

4. World Leaders – Vladimir Putin deserves a good share of blame for the price run-up in the weeks since the Ukraine invasion, but by then prices had already jumped by more than a dollar per gallon above the previous year. Furthermore, if domestic production wasn’t handcuffed by the Biden administration, the invasion would likely have a less severe impact as we are seeing.

5.  Donald Trump– Gasoline was cheaper when Trump was president, and he aggressively pursued an agenda of “energy dominance” that included several petroleum supply-expanding projects that have since been blocked by his successor. Nonetheless, that has not deterred some from finding orange-man culpability. The Trump-blamer rationales are understandably hazy, but they suggest that the former president contributed to closing the domestic oil spigot, initiated the federal spending increases that contributed to overall inflation, including gasoline, and facilitated Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Why none of this bad stuff happened until Biden took over is apparently just a coincidence.

If we can get beyond scapegoats, we can debate solutions. One such solution that should be crystal clear is making the most of the oil we have in the United States. Maximizing domestic oil production makes a lot of sense when the world is at peace and even more in times like these when it isn’t.

Follow us on social media: Twitter: @DV_Journal or