Judge William Alsup of the US District Court for the Northern District of California [official website] dismissed [order] a suit on Monday against several oil companies, including Chevron Corporation and Exxon Mobil Corporation [corporate websites].
The suit, brought by the state of California and the city of Oakland, alleged that the oil companies were a “public nuisance” under federal law because they burned fossil fuels, which caused sea levels to rise.
The court granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss because the plaintiffs failed to state a claim.
“The issue is not over science,” said Alsup, as the defendants agreed that burning fossil fuels can lead to rising sea levels and climate change. He continued, “The issue is a legal one—whether these producers of fossil fuels should pay for the anticipated harm that will eventually flow from the rise in sea level.”
The court said that in order to be a public nuisance, the act, if intentional, must be unreasonable. Although they contribute to global warming, fossil fuels do have benefits to society.
“The problem deserves a solution on a more vast scale than can be supplied by a district judge or jury on a public nuisance case,” said Alsup.
This is not the first lawsuit brought against Exxon relating to climate change. In April the top Massachusetts court rejected [JURIST report] Exxon’s attempt to ban the attorney general from investigating whether the corporation knew of the effect fossil fuels have on climate change. In March a federal judge in New York also dismissed [JURIST report] Exxon’s attempt to block a climate change investigation.