Kivalina has lost once and for all its novel lawsuit against oil giants for damages suffered from climate change. A three-judge appeals panel ruled that federal public-nuisance laws did not apply to the 22 energy conglomerates including ExxonMobil, BP America, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and others when it came to causing enough global warming to force the villagers’ relocation.
The suit had also implied that the companies had conspired in withholding information about global warming, even as they knew they were propogating it, according to Courthouse News. The case had been dismissed initially by U.S. District Judge Saundra Armstrong on the grounds that the villagers lacked enough evidence to link their injuries to the companies’ actions and therefore had no standing in the case. The three appeals judges concurred on September 21.
Kivalina’s residents are being forced to relocate as rising ocean overwhelms the slim peninsula on which it is currently located. The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers had suggested in 2006 that they relocate to a site 7.5 miles away. The villagers not only disliked the site but also lacked the funds to make the move. They filed suit in 2008 demanding $400 million to help them relocate. The suit was dismissed, but in 2011 they appealed in 9th District Court in San Francisco.
The court did not dispute that Kivalina is suffering damages due to climate change. The issue was whether the oil companies in question could be held responsible, and whether the courts were the arena in which to decide that.
“Our conclusion obviously does not aid Kivalina, which itself is being displaced by the rising sea,” he added. “But the solution to Kivalina’s dire circumstance must rest in the hands of the legislative and executive branches of our government, not the federal common law.”
More on climate change and Arctic communities: