The Supreme Court’s decision to reject a batch of climate liability petitions from oil companies paves the way for a flood of lawsuits against the industry to be heard in state courts from Maryland to Hawaii.
The high court on Monday turned down five requests from the oil industry to intervene in cases brought by a dozen municipalities. The decision involves a narrow slice of law — whether climate lawsuits against the fossil fuel industry should be heard by state or federal judges — but the outcome could be sweeping.
The move stands to accelerate nearly two dozen climate lawsuits filed by states and municipalities that have been stalled for years by oil industry efforts to move the cases from state to federal court, where the companies believe they have a better chance to win. The lawsuits ask for compensation to help pay for local responses to the effects of climate change.
“The high court’s decision is a major victory for communities across the country that are fighting to hold Big Oil accountable and make them pay for the climate damages they knowingly caused,” said Richard Wiles, president of the Center for Climate Integrity, which backs the cases. “Now it’s time for these polluters to face the evidence of their deception in court.”
The industry had argued that the cases carry “potentially enormous consequences for an entire sector of the global economy.”
Phil Goldberg, special counsel for the Manufacturers’ Accountability Project, an initiative of the National Association of Manufacturers that opposes the climate liability lawsuits, said the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear the cases “risks the creation of a patchwork of state court approaches to important public policy matters that are inherently federal and global in nature.”
But he argued that “even under state law, selling Americans the energy they need and use every day is not a liability inducing event.”
Goldberg predicted that when the courts get to the substance of the claims, “it will be evident that this litigation has no legal or factual foundation.“
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