Supreme Court Rejects Fossil Fuel Companies’ Lawsuit Appeals

April 25, 2023

The Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear five appeals from fossil fuel companies over lower court lawsuits related to climate change.

The Court’s rejection of those appeals opens the door for several cities, states and counties to pursue claims in state courts for damages related to weather events, flooding and rising sea levels. 

The lawsuits began springing up roughly six years ago. The local governments who’ve brought the suits have reportedly found the state courts to be advantageous jurisdictions for them to seek damages, citing product liability, alleged deceptive advertising by the fossil fuel industry, and nuisance statutes. 

The states that have sued include California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maryland and Rhode Island. They’re seeking damages against such Big Oil and Gas corporations as ExxonMobil, Shell Oil and Chevron. 

“After decades of climate-change deception by the fossil-fuel defendants, and now nearly half a decade of delay tactics in our lawsuit to hold them accountable for it, our residents, workers, businesses and taxpayers are ready for their day in court,” said Rhode Island Attorney General Peter F. Neronha in a statement.

In 2018 Rhode Island became the first state to file suit against the fossil fuel industry in an attempt to force corporations to take responsiblity for climate change.

The brief order from the Supreme Court notes only that Justice Brett Kavanaugh would have granted a petition to move one lawsuit from Boulder, Colorado to federal courts.

Even so, an attorney for Chevron has asserted that the lawsuits will ultimately be dismissed.

“Climate change is an issue of national and global magnitude that requires a coordinated federal policy response, not a disjointed patchwork of lawsuits in state courts across multiple states,” said attorney Theodore J. Boutrous, Jr. “These wasteful lawsuits in state courts will do nothing to advance global climate solutions, nothing to reduce emissions, and nothing to address climate-related impacts.”

However, Delta Merner of the Union of Concerned Scientists said in a statement that the decision to fight the lawsuits in state courts “sends a powerful message to fossil-fuel companies: Evading responsibility will not be tolerated.”

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