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Big Oil Hit Hard By Supreme Court Rejection

The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected requests by a number of oil companies to block three lawsuits launched against them by state and local governments for their role in climate change.

Bloomberg reports that the oil companies—including BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips Exxon, Shell, and Phillips 66—had requested that the cases which have been filed in Maryland, Rhode Island, and Colorado, respectively, be moved to federal court. Corporations tend to have a better chance at winning a case at federal court, Bloomberg notes.

However, the Supreme Court judges ruled that this was unnecessary, and let the cases proceed.

The plaintiffs argue that their respective jurisdictions are suffering the effects of climate change, including floods, heat waves, and storms, and the associated higher emergency response costs.

The defendants in the Maryland case argued to the Supreme Court that they will have to incur “duplicative and unrecoverable” litigation costs if the case went forward.

The Supreme Court’s ruling coincided with the start of the trial against Exxon, which New York’s Attorney General has accused of misleading investors about the effect that anti-climate change regulation and climate change itself would affect its profits. Related: Two Dead Following ISIS Attack On Iraqi Oil Field

"Exxon in effect erected a Potemkin village to create the illusion that it had fully considered the risks of future climate change regulation and had factored those risks into its business operations," the prosecution said. "As a result of Exxon's fraud, the company was exposed to far greater risk from climate change regulations than investors were led to believe."

Exxon, for its part, claims that it did not mislead investors and says the lawsuit is motivated by politics rather than anything else.

Last year, a similar case brought by the cities of San Francisco and Oakland against Big Oil ended with a ruling in favour of Big Oil. The judge in charge of the case ruled that there was no conspiracy to suppress facts about climate change.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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  • Arch Region on September 06 2020 said:
    Very interesting article. It reminds me the litigation against Big Tobacco. We all knew that smoking cigarets kills but it was hard to prove scientifically. We all have experienced extreme weather events resulting from global climate change but it was hard to prove in a court of law.

    Once climate change became scientifically undeniable it was presented at the 1986 Senate hearings, convened by Republican Sen. John Chafee, in a cogent and comprehensive manner. Scientists presented compelling evidence that time for action was now.

    Sen. Chafee speech at the hearings traced the science of global warming to an 1850's conjecture. By the 1880's scientific evidence had been amassed to support it. By early 20th Century Global Climate Change resulting from Green House Gases was a scientifically proven theory. The only question was how soon and how big the devastation would be. By the 1980's according to Chafee's science hearings spelled out that it was time for action. This resulted in a call to arms by the fossil fuel folks to scuttle the action. George Bush the father will be remembered as a worse villain than his son, for spearheading science denialism and for making the US the 1992 hold out at the Rio Earth Summit.

    Big Tobacco's first line of defense was similarly science denialism. But second line of defense was "we were not aware of the health devastation caused by smoking". Only after an industry insider Jeffrey Wigand, testified in a landmark court case the Big Tobacco faced consequences. The court case showed that the health damage was reported in internal company documents, proven by the industry's own scientists.

    In the case against ExxonMobil internal documents showed that its own scientists had concluded they had to plan for climate change. Instead of admitting publicly what ExxonMobil knew, it funded an anti-science campaign of misinformation. Like Big Tobacco they were nailed for knowing what were they denying. ExxonMobil is being nailed for deceiving investors (a crime worse than killing people or species). In both cases it was internal documents that exposed culpability.

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