By Karen Savage
The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling that a Colorado climate liability lawsuit against ExxonMobil and Suncor belongs in state court.
A three-judge panel decided unanimously, avoiding a conflict with other circuit rulings —at least for now—and reducing the likelihood that the Supreme Court will step in at this stage. Chevron and other companies have asked the high court to review a similar ruling by the Fourth Circuit in a case filed against them by Baltimore. Had the circuits come to different conclusions instead of agreeing these cases should be in state court, the Supreme Court might have felt compelled to weigh in.
Instead, the communities filing these suits have won a wave of victories in keeping them in state courts. The fossil fuel companies named in nearly two dozen of these lawsuits have tried repeatedly to get the cases heard in federal court, where they have historically had a better chance at shaking them.
So far, they’ve struck out.
The First Circuit is also considering whether Rhode Island’s lawsuit against many of the same companies should stay in state court after a district court ordered it there.
“Federal courts have consistently ruled that these climate cases belong in state courts—which makes sense because these cases are about harms experienced at the local level,” said Marco Simons, general counsel of EarthRights International, which is representing the Colorado municipalities.