By Karen Savage
Despite the Covid-19 crisis that has slowed court proceedings, municipalities across the country that are seeking to hold fossil fuel companies accountable for climate damages have scored big legal victories in recent months.
Amid the pandemic, two separate appellate courts ruled two sets of these suits belong in state court, where the municipalities filed them, alleging the companies violated state laws and caused localized damage. The appeals courts said the suits filed by Baltimore and by six California communities against several fossil fuel companies, including Exxon, Chevron and Shell, should be considered under state laws, rejecting arguments by the companies that they belong in federal court. The industry has aggressively fought to move the cases there, where they believe they will be more easily dismissed.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals also helped this trend by overturning a U.S. District Court judge’s dismissal of cases filed by Oakland and San Francisco against Exxon, Chevron, Shell, BP, and ConocoPhillips.
Cases filed by Rhode Island against many of the same companies, as well as a case filed by several Colorado communities against Exxon and Suncor have been allowed to proceed in their respective state courts while the companies continue to press their appeals to push them to federal court.[Read more…]