San Mateo, California — Lawsuits from six California cities and counties seeking to hold major oil and gas companies — including ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron, and Shell — accountable for the cost of climate damages they knowingly caused should proceed in state court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled today.
The unanimous ruling from a three-judge panel means that the counties of San Mateo, Marin, and Santa Cruz, and the cities of Imperial Beach, Richmond, and Santa Cruz are now one key step closer to putting oil majors on trial for deceiving the public about their role in climate change.
The Ninth Circuit decision marks the third time this year that a federal appeals court has rejected arguments from the oil industry to move climate liability lawsuits filed in state court to federal court following a 2021 U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
At least ten federal district courts have similarly ruled that climate accountability lawsuits filed in state court belong in state court — “a batting average of .000” for the fossil fuel industry, in the words of one judge.
In response, Richard Wiles, president of the Center for Climate Integrity, released the following statement:
“This is another big, but not surprising, loss for the oil and gas majors. Three federal appeals courts have now agreed that their arguments to escape accountability in state court do not pass muster. This ruling is a major victory for these California communities seeking their day in court against corporate polluters that spent decades lying about their products’ role in fueling the climate crisis.”
Earlier this year, the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit and the Fourth Circuit issued similar rulings in climate accountability lawsuits from communities in Colorado and Maryland, respectively.
Four other federal circuit courts across the country are considering similar arguments from Exxon and other oil and gas companies, which have repeatedly lost efforts to move climate accountability lawsuits out of state court.
Since 2017, the attorneys general of Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Vermont, and the District of Columbia, as well as 20 city and county governments in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, and Washington, have filed lawsuits to hold major oil and gas companies accountable for deceiving the public about their products’ role in climate change.