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The U.S. Supreme Court has turned down a request from a trade group and several large fossil fuel companies to transfer a case that Minnesota had filed against them, alleging that they were contributing to the worsening of climate change, from state court to federal court, the preferred venue for the energy industry.
A trio of interest groups—the American Petroleum Institute, Koch Industries, and Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM.N)—had petitioned the Supreme Court to reconsider an appeals court’s March ruling from the 8th U.S. Circuit in St. Louis, Reuters reported.
That court ruled that the original lawsuit, which was filed in Minnesota, had the proper venue: in state court. The lawsuit accused the energy industry of decades of misleading marketing that hid the risks of burning fossil fuels and weakened climate science.
Cases from states like California, Rhode Island, Hawaii, and Maryland were effectively sent back to state court last year after the justices refused to consider multiple comparable appeals. State court is frequently considered a more favorable venue for plaintiffs than federal court.
In a statement released on Monday, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said that the case can now move forward toward a trial in state court and that this decision is in line with similar ones made in courts across the nation.
Respondents from ExxonMobil, Koch Industries, and the American Petroleum Institute were slow to respond.
Overall, eight U.S. appeals courts have upheld lower court rulings that remanded comparable climate cases to state courts, reasoning that federal courts lack jurisdiction because the lawsuits solely involve claims involving state law.
The fossil fuel industry has justified its actions by claiming that the lawsuits are an attempt to influence federal energy policy through state law and that the global nature of greenhouse gas emissions makes the federal court system the proper venue to address any claims of harm associated with these emissions.
The state of Minnesota filed a lawsuit in 2020 accusing the energy companies and the American Petroleum Institute of failing to disclose this risk to the general public and actively working to discredit climate change research despite claiming to know the effects of the fossil fuels they sold to the general public in the 1970s and 1980s.
According to the state, the coordinated attempts to minimize the dangers of fossil fuels have cost the state billions of dollars due to climate change and have broken consumer protection and fraud laws.
“Taken together, the defendants’ behavior has delayed the transition to alternative energy sources and a lower carbon economy, resulting in dire impacts on Minnesota’s environment and enormous costs to Minnesotans and the world,” Ellison said.
The companies and the institute have denied those allegations and told the Supreme Court in August that the case deserved to be in federal court given the state’s apparent aim to seek a remedy for the impacts of a global phenomenon such as climate change.
This is the second big ruling from the Supreme Court this week.
After the EPA rejected a gold and copper mine proposal in 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a case that would have revived the project.
Concerned about the possible effects on a significant salmon fishery in Alaska, the Biden administration made the unprecedented decision to halt construction of the Pebble Mine in 2021. Alaska had petitioned the court to reverse the EPA’s decision.
Alaska claimed the EPA broke a land exchange agreement in which the state ceded its rights to what is now Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, The Hill reported.
Alaska claimed in court documents that it received federal lands with mineral deposits in return. Alaska had claimed that “the United States is now reneging on the deal” and that the mining project would bring in money for the state in the form of royalties and taxes in addition to employing locals.
The federal government contended that Alaska should pursue alternative venues for its claims rather than taking them to the Supreme Court. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cited “unacceptable adverse effects” on salmon fishery areas as the reason it halted the mine.