Supreme Court won’t take up Alaskan tribe’s suit against Exxon Mobil

By Jeremy P. Jacobs, E&E, ClimateWire

The Supreme Court yesterday declined to review a large climate change lawsuit brought by a Native Alaskan village against major energy producers.

The Native Village of Kivalina had asked the justices to take up a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling last September that dismissed its lawsuit against Exxon Mobil Corp. and other producers.

Villagers had claimed that the companies’ operations were contributing to global warming, which in turn was eroding their land off the northwest coast of Alaska, about 70 miles north of the Arctic Circle.

Specifically, the villagers were seeking damages from the companies. The San Francisco-based 9th Circuit, however, ruled that the Clean Air Act and U.S. EPA regulations have jurisdiction over climate change issues.

The Village of Kivalina is a self-governing, federally recognized tribe of about 400 Inupiat Native Alaskans who live on a 6-mile barrier reef off the coast of Alaska.

In order to withstand winter storms and large waves, the village relies on sea ice that binds to its coastline. In recent years, villagers charged that the ice is forming later and melting sooner, leaving them exposed.

Further, the reef itself is eroding, and, in court documents, the village claimed its existence is deeply threatened.

The villagers attributed the change to global warming and pointed at greenhouse gases from energy production as the culprit. They sought damages under a common law nuisance claim.

Lower courts have ruled against the village on multiple occasions. A district court tossed out the case because the village couldn’t concretely detail how it had been harmed by the conduct of the companies.