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Legal Newsline: SCOTUS Won’t Intervene on Climate Change Cases Now Headed to State Courts Around the Country

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) – Oil companies facing climate change lawsuits won’t have the U.S. Supreme Court’s support on a key issue.

SCOTUS on April 24 declined to review appeals in several cases, leaving in place orders that allowed cities and counties, represented by private lawyers working on contingency fees, to pursue their litigation in state courts.

The government officials and private lawyers prefer state courts and fought to have their cases heard there after defendants like Exxon and Chevron removed them to federal court. The oil industry figured to be able to mount stronger defenses in federal court.

The oil companies argue the federal government explicitly encourages oil and gas development as national policy and the governments suing them are some of the biggest users of fossil fuels, with large fleets of automobiles, trucks and buses.

But the lawsuits make state law public nuisance claims, federal courts have ruled in remanding the cases to state court. Only Justice Brett Kavanaugh voted to hear the appeals. Justice Sam Alito didn’t participate.

“The Supreme Court’s decision to not hear the federal law issues in this case is certainly disappointing because it risks the creation of a patchwork of state court approaches to important public policy matters that are inherently federal and global in nature,” said Phil Goldberg, special counsel to the Manufacturers Accountability Project.

Read the full column here