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Supreme Court declines to weigh in Minnesota’s climate lawsuit against big oil companies

By Ella Nilsen, CNN

(CNN) — The Supreme Court declined to weigh in on a climate change case the state of Minnesota is pursuing against ExxonMobil, the American Petroleum Institute trade group and other fossil fuel groups.

The Supreme Court’s decision notes that Justice Brett Kavanaugh would have agreed to hear the case.

Besides Minnesota, California, other states and municipalities have sued big oil companies, in some cases asking courts to compel them to pay for abatement funds to help pay for damages from climate-fueled disasters like floods, wildfires and extreme heat.

Two of these cases, one from Massachusetts and one from Honolulu city and county, could go to trial as soon as 2025.

The fossil fuel industry appealed the Minnesota case to the Supreme Court, asking it to move the case to federal court from state court – which likely would have made the case easier to defeat. Minnesota is one of 31 states, cities and counties using its consumer protection laws to sue big oil companies for their role in worsening the climate crisis, and alleging they deceived the public about the harms of burning fossil fuels.

“We’re disappointed by the Supreme Court’s decision today to keep this litigation in state court.But ultimately, climate policy is an issue for Congress to debate, not the court system,” Ryan Meyers, the senior vice president and general counsel of API, said in a statement.

Big oil companies contend the more than 30 lawsuits filed against them belong in federal rather than state court. That jurisdictional argument has been rejected by dozens of federal judges, including eight federal appeals courts. The Supreme Court has in the past declined appeals from major fossil fuel companies to step in during these types of lawsuits.

“I appreciate the Court’s consideration and decision,” Minnesota attorney general Keith Ellison said in a statement. “The Court’s decision confirms these cases are properly filed in state courts. Now, the case can move forward in state court, where it was properly filed, and we can begin to hold these companies accountable for their wrongful conduct.”

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