A village of 400 people will not be allowed to sue energy companies in order to link their actions to the effects of global warming, with a three-judge panel unanimously deciding that the village lacks the standing to sue.
While this case takes place in a different state, coastal areas of Oregon could be affected by similar problems. However, the results of this incident suggest that individuals and municipalities in Oregon would be similarly barred from pursuing civil litigation against the parties they deem responsible for the global warming-related damage.
The village sought a civil lawsuit after experiencing widespread damage from flooding it argues may have been caused by global warming. Regardless of whether this claim is correct, the judges ruled that the village must seek a solution through legislative means.
The village that attempted to file the lawsuit did so after it suffered severe damage from high flood waters, which destroyed a pipeline that helps supply water to the village. Classes at the village school have been delayed for over a month. The flooding occurred after two weeks of heavy rain, with rising water temperatures and declining sea ice exposing the village to an increasing number of serious storms. In response, the village attempted to sue Exxon, Chevron and 20 other coal, oil and energy companies in order to connect those businesses with global warming.
The judicial panel that rejected the lawsuit argued that the village failed to successfully show that its damage can be directly traced to the defendants. “Our conclusion obviously does not aid [the village], which itself has been displaced by the rising sea,” wrote one judge. “But the solutions to [the village’s] dire circumstance must rest in the hands of the legislative and executive branches of our government.”
While the village has been declared a disaster zone, it will not receive relief funds until the complete cost of the damage has been assessed and repairs have been undertaken.
Source: Alaska Dispatch, “Appeals court rejects Alaska village’s bid to tie global warming to industry,” Mike Campbell, Sep. 21, 2012