Energy & Environment

Supreme Court declines Exxon, Chevron push to move state lawsuits to federal court

The Supreme Court on Monday declined a request by oil companies to transfer a series of state lawsuits to federal court, where the energy companies hoped for more favorable legal terrain.

The justices refused to hear appeals by Exxon, Chevron and Suncor Energy of lower court rulings keeping lawsuits against them in state courts. The lawsuits, brought by the state of Rhode Island and municipalities in California, Colorado, Hawaii and Maryland, seek to hold the companies accountable for the impact of climate change, accusing them of knowingly contributing to it.

The state and local plaintiffs were backed by the Biden administration in seeking to keep the lawsuits in state courts, a reversal from the Trump administration, which sided with the oil companies in seeking to transfer them to federal courts.

The narrow ruling does not indicate the high court is likely to rule one way or the other on the merits of the lawsuits themselves. In 2021, the court ruled 7-1 in favor of a push by several major oil companies, including Chevron, Exxon and Royal Dutch Shell, to contest a similar lawsuit from the city of Baltimore in federal court rather than state court.

Justice Samuel Alito, who owns oil stocks, recused himself from the latest case. Justice Brett Kavanaugh was the only justice to indicate he would have heard the case.

“We are confident the pending climate lawsuits in the U.S. will ultimately be dismissed. Climate change is an issue of national and global magnitude that requires a coordinated federal policy response, not a disjointed patchwork of lawsuits in state courts across multiple states,” said Theodore J. Boutrous Jr. of Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher, counsel for Chevron Corporation, in a statement to The Hill. “These wasteful lawsuits in state courts will do nothing to advance global climate solutions, nothing to reduce emissions, and nothing to address climate-related impacts.”

The Hill has reached out to Exxon and Suncor for comment.

Updated: 12:29 p.m.

Tags Brett Kavanaugh Chevron ExxonMobil Samuel Alito Supreme Court

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