Oil companies rejected by Supreme Court on moving climate fight

Large waves crash along a beach in Florida Source: iStock/Florida Chuck

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal by oil companies including BP plc and Exxon Mobil Corporation, leaving intact an important procedural ruling favouring two California cities suing for billions of dollars to address the impact of climate change.

The justices, without comment, refused to consider the industry’s bid to shift the lawsuit into federal court, where companies tend to fare better than they do before state tribunals.

The rebuff is a victory for San Francisco and Oakland, part of a group of litigants around the country seeking reimbursement for costs associated with rising sea levels, including coastal flooding, increased shoreline erosion, and salt-water impacts on water-treatment plants.

The lawsuit also names Chevron Corporation, Royal Dutch Shell plc and ConocoPhillips as defendants.

The cities are suing under state law, claiming the companies created a “public nuisance” with a decades-long campaign to discredit the science of global warming, misrepresent and conceal the dangers of fossil fuels, and downplay the potentially catastrophic consequences.

The companies said the suit raises federal-law issues that can’t be adequately addressed on a state-by-state basis. An appeals court rejected that line of argument, though it said the companies could still press other arguments for having the case go forward in federal court.

The case is Chevron v. Oakland, 20-1089.

© 2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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