A handful of California cities and counties want billions of dollars from the oil industry for the problems arising from climate change, and their far-reaching legal push is about to face a crucial test in a Pasadena courtroom.
On Wednesday, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear arguments from three counties and five cities, including San Francisco and Oakland, on why their lawsuits against several oil companies should proceed in state court rather than federal court. The widely watched challenges are thought to have better odds in state court.
The eight California communities behind the suits are at the forefront of a small but growing effort nationwide to hold oil companies financially responsible for rising seas, wildfires and other climate-related havoc. The new legal tactic, now being employed by New York, Baltimore and other cities and counties, comes as global warming has become a low priority during the Trump administration.
The decision on which court should settle the suits will directly affect only the California municipalities. In addition to San Francisco and Oakland, they include Richmond, Santa Cruz and Imperial Beach (San Diego County), and Marin, San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties. However, the rulings in Pasadena also feed into a national debate over court jurisdiction on the matter, which legal experts say may ultimately prompt the Supreme Court to weigh in on the climate issue.
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