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High Court Refuses to Take Up Kivalina Climate Suit

Holleb_Hotaling_Keri_COLORBy Keri L. Holleb Hotaling

 

On May 20, 2013, the United States Supreme Court denied the Alaska town of Kivalina’s petition for writ of certiorari in its public nuisance lawsuit against Exxon Mobil Corp. and other energy companies. Kivalina contended that the energy companies were injuring the small Eskimo village by causing global warming and a commensurate sea level rise, and, as a result, inhabitants were forced to leave and relocate further inland. Because the Supreme Court has opted not to hear the case, the Ninth Circuit’s ruling in favor of the energy companies will stand. The Ninth Circuit largely followed the reasoning of the Supreme Court in American Electric Power Co., Inc. v. Connecticut, ---U.S.---, 131 S. Ct. 2527, 180 L. Ed. 2d 435 (2011), in affirming the dismissal of the action by the district court and finding that the Clean Air Act (“CAA”) displaced Kivalina’s claim for $400 million in damages to fund a relocation project. (SeeNinth Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Federal Common Law Nuisance Claim for Global Warming.”) Kivalina urged the Supreme Court in its February petition that the case be controlled by Exxon Shipping Co. v. Baker, 554 U.S. 471 (2008), which held that the Clean Water Act, a statute like the CAA, did not displace a federal common law damages claim. The case is Native Village of Kivalina, et al. v. Exxon Mobil Corp., et al., Case Number 12-1072, U.S. Supreme Court.