The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Mike Meno, Center for Climate Integrity, 919-307-6637 or

Big Oil Loses Appeals in California Climate Lawsuits

Ninth Circuit Rules Cases Can be Tried in State Court; Eight California Communities Are Suing Fossil Fuel Companies to Hold Them Accountable for Damages Caused by Climate Change.


Lawsuits filed by a group of California cities and counties to hold major fossil fuel companies accountable for damages caused by climate change can proceed in state court, a federal appeals court ruled today.

In two separate rulings, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied requests from Big Oil defendants -- including Chevron, Exxon, BP, ConocoPhillips, and Shell -- to have cases filed by San Mateo County and other municipalities moved from state to federal court. The three-judge panel also ruled that lawsuits brought by San Francisco and Oakland, which were previously dismissed by a federal district court, should be sent back to the lower court for reconsideration.

The cases were originally filed in state court, where many similar cases against the tobacco and opioid industries were heard and decided.

Earlier this year, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a similar lawsuit brought by the City of Baltimore should proceed in state court.

Richard Wiles, executive director of the Center for Climate Integrity, released the following statement:

"This ruling is a tremendous victory in the fight to hold Big Oil accountable for lying about climate change and leaving communities to pay for the damage.

"The last thing Big Oil wants is a trial where the truth about their decades of lying about climate change would be laid bare. These decisions get these communities one step closer to that day."


In separate lawsuits, the California municipalities argue that major fossil fuel companies -- including Chevron, Exxon, BP, ConocoPhillips, and Shell -- are responsible for exposing their communities to an onslaught of threats from climate change, including sea-level rise, flooding, wildfires, heatwaves, and extreme weather events caused by fossil fuel products and a decades-long denial and disinformation campaign to deceive the public about the harms associated with their products. The municipalities argue that these companies should pay their fair share of the enormous costs associated with planning for and adapting to climate-related risks, including threats to infrastructure, homes, and businesses.

A Center for Climate Integrity study estimated that California will need to spend $22 billion on seawalls to defend against unavoidable sea level rise by 2040. The estimated costs for each community in these cases are:

  • Marin County: $1 billion+ (6th most in California)
  • San Mateo County: $784 million+
  • Santa Cruz County: $758 million+
  • San Francisco: $256 million+
  • Imperial Beach: $211 million+
  • Richmond: $154 million+
  • Santa Cruz: $96 million+
  • Oakland: $68 million+

Read the Center for Climate Integrity's friend-of-the-court briefs in the cases here and here.