A federal court has dismissed New York City’s suit against five of the world’s largest oil companies, in which Mayor Bill de Blasio hoped to see financial penalties imposed on the firms for their alleged contribution to global warming. The mayor expressed his dissatisfaction with the ruling, noting “Big Oil must be held accountable for their contributions to climate change and the damage it will cause our city, our country and our planet.” He pledged to appeal.
It’s unfortunate that Judge John Keenan nixed the city’s suit only on jurisdictional grounds. Keenan ruled that federal law and the Clean Air Act supersede state law and the city’s claims, and while acknowledging that “climate change is a fact of life,” averred that “the serious problems caused thereby are not for the judiciary to ameliorate.” De Blasio’s lawsuit wants world history rewound 170 years to the dawn of the petroleum age, with the cost of all industrial pollution added to the defendants’ bill. The development of tall buildings, railroads, electrical generation and transmission, modern agriculture, plastics, computers—he would have us believe that these innovations would probably have come about anyway, had the early oil tycoons focused on clean-energy technologies.
De Blasio has always preferred global problems to the municipal muddle that governing a city demands. Consider his decision last summer to protest against the G20 in Germany instead of staying home to attend an NYPD swearing-in ceremony—in the same week that Officer Miosotis Familia was assassinated by a cop-hating ex-convict. “Our Earth depends on you. We will never stop fighting for our Mother Earth,” de Blasio told the assembled crowd at the “Hamburg Shows Attitude” rally. “We will never stop fighting against racism and xenophobia.” The protest included violent clashes between anarchists and the police, looting, and arson.
The very idea of the mayor of the world’s financial capital traveling overseas to protest a meeting of central bankers is comical, but entirely consistent with de Blasio’s focus on anything but his job. Soon after his second inauguration in January, the mayor promised that he would “go all around the country” to spread the “progressive message of economic change and fairness.” In March, he showed up at the South by Southwest conference in Austin to discuss progressive politics with the mayor of Portland, and also stopped in Baltimore to visit the Congressional Progressive Caucus Center Strategy Summit.
What he didn’t do during that same period is make room in his schedule to talk to Andy Byford, the new head of the MTA. Byford was hired to run New York’s heavily indebted and crisis-plagued transit system in December. In an interview with The New Yorker published earlier this month, Byford revealed that he had yet to speak to de Blasio. “Bit weird,” the British-born Byford allowed. The mayor disagreed, saying that it was “not at all” strange that he hadn’t called the director of a system through which millions of his constituents ride every day. “It’s abundantly clear that the City of New York does not control the MTA. If we control the MTA, I would be talking to Mr. Byford,” said Mayor de Blasio. “I’m going to put my focus on the things I can control. I think that’s a smart use of time.”
Yet while he throws his hands up regarding the subways, de Blasio eagerly races to intervene elsewhere—preferably far from New York City. He jetted down to El Paso to observe conditions at the Mexican border, where he was denied entry to the secure Tornillo facility. “I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said. “These are public facilities paid for with taxpayer dollars.”
De Blasio’s salary is also paid for by taxpayers—New York taxpayers—yet he has no hesitation about grandstanding on the world stage and pursuing his apparently outsize political ambitions at the expense of his local responsibilities.
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