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Environment

US Judge Says Oil Companies Can't Be Sued for Climate Change

A federal court in California has dismissed climate change lawsuits brought by the cities of San Francisco and Oakland against five oil companies, Reuters reports.

While Judge William Alsup of the US District Court for the Northern District of California said in the ruling that the environmental dangers are real and legion, he determined that the complaints required foreign and domestic policy decisions to effect lasting change.

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“Nuisance suits in various United States judicial districts regarding conduct worldwide are far less likely to solve the problem and, indeed, could interfere with reaching a worldwide consensus,” Alsup wrote in his decision, The New York Times reported.

The ruling fell in favor of the Big Oil defendants — Chevron, ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Royal Dutch Shell, and BP — which had argued that the claims were “ill-suited” for resolution in the courts in their motion to dismiss the case, according to The Verge.

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Chevron called the decision "important and well-reasoned" and acknowledged that although the ruling is not binding on other courts, the company feels judges in similar cases "should follow Judge Alsup's lead and dismiss their cases as well," spokesman Sean Comey told Reuters.

We’re pleased that the court recognized that the science of global warming is no longer in dispute.

But some experts feel the ruling will have little bearing on other similar court battles.

“The decision shouldn’t affect other climate change lawsuits — particularly the ones that are farthest along in California,” Ann Carlson, a professor of environmental law at UCLA, told The Verge.

“Judge Alsup’s initial decision to keep the cases in federal court was, in my view, wrongly decided,” Carlson added. “That initial decision then, in turn, led him to grant the defendants’ motion to dismiss.”

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In the meantime, at least the lawsuits led to one thing:

“We’re pleased that the court recognized that the science of global warming is no longer in dispute,” John Coté, a spokesperson for the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office, said in a statement emailed to The Verge.

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