A panel of federal judges on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena handed major fossil fuel companies a setback in two climate-related cases brought by California cities and counties.
The two unanimous rulings by the three-judge panel move the cases back to state court, where they were initially filed, clearing a major hurdle for the litigation following a string of setbacks that included the transfer of the cases to federal court.
The lawsuits, one brought by the the counties of San Mateo, Marin and Santa Cruz and the cities of Richmond and Imperial Beach, and the other brought by Oakland and San Francisco, seek billions of dollars in damages from oil and gas companies to pay for the effects of climate change.
The lawsuits argue that fossil fuel companies are responsible for the remediation costs and property damage from increasingly severe wildfires, rising sea levels and intense storms that batter coastal communities.
In the latest decision, the judges affirmed a 9th Circuit ruling that municipalities can pursue climate cases in state court and applying state law, seeking damages from 30 oil and gas companies including Chevron, ExxonMobil and Phillips 66.