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Big Oil Loses Bid to Rehear California Cities’ Climate Cases (1)

Aug. 12, 2020, 3:22 PM; Updated: Aug. 13, 2020, 12:08 AM

Federal judges won’t revisit a court decision that revived California cities’ efforts to sue the oil and gas industry for harms related to climate change.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on Wednesday rejected industry lawyers’ requests for rehearing after a three-judge panel in May ordered a district court to take another look at a pair of previously dismissed climate cases from San Francisco and Oakland.

The court’s refusal to revisit the decisions is a blow to Exxon Mobil Corp., BP Plc, and others that have worked for years to spike the cases. The lawsuits, filed in state court, seek to hold the industry financially responsible for local-level impacts of climate change, which is primarily driven by fossil fuel use.

The panel, consisting of Judges Sandra S. Ikuta, Morgan B. Christen, and Kenneth K. Lee, declined to rehear the case and noted that no circuit judge requested a vote on having the full Ninth Circuit hear the case.

The panel also revised its May decision to narrow one of the companies’ arguments for bringing the case into federal court.

Cases All Over

The Ninth Circuit in early August declined to revisit a related decision that largely favored San Mateo County and other California local governments in a similar set of climate cases.

State and local governments in Maryland, Colorado, New York, Hawaii, and Rhode Island are pursuing similar claims.

The plaintiffs and their industry opponents have been locked in legal battles over whether the litigation belongs in state or federal court. Oil and gas companies say the climate-focused claims raise federal issues that belong in federal courts, which are also seen as more favorable to defendants in such cases.

But courts across the country have largely allowed the litigation to advance in state courts. Some companies are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to step in to halt the city of Baltimore’s climate case from continuing in Maryland state court, and are poised to make a similar high court bid to challenge the San Mateo cases.

“It’s time to move these cases forward in state court, where they belong, and hold fossil fuel companies accountable for the harms, costs, and damage they are imposing on our cities,” San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera and Oakland City Attorney Barbara J. Parker said in a statement Wednesday.

The case is City of Oakland v. BP Plc, 9th Cir., No. 18-16663, 8/12/20.

(Adds comment from San Francisco, Oakland city attorneys in 10th paragraph. )

To contact the reporters on this story: Ellen M. Gilmer in Washington at egilmer@bloombergindustry.com; Rob Tricchinelli in Washington at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Gregory Henderson at ghenderson@bloombergindustry.com; Chuck McCutcheon at cmccutcheon@bloombergenvironment.com; Carmen Castro-Pagan at ccastro-pagan@bloomberglaw.com

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