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Photo: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

Three recently filed local and state lawsuits against big oil companies over climate change are moving from state to federal courts, according to new legal documents reviewed by Axios.

Why it matters: It may sound just procedural, but the type of court matters a lot. Given previous federal-court rulings, oil companies are generally more favored to win in federal court, with less certainty at the state level given lack of precedent either way.

The big picture: These types of lawsuits, which allege oil producers are liable for billions of dollars worth of damages caused by climate change, are proliferating across the country as Washington remains gridlocked on the issue. The litigation is an increasing concern for oil companies and a key tactic of environmentalists to publicly criticize the industry for its role making products that exacerbate climate change.

Driving the news: In three lawsuits filed by local and state governments in Washington State, Colorado and Rhode Island, oil-company lawyers argue that climate change is an inherently global issue and thus the cases should be considered within the federal court system. The litigants are expected to challenge those moves, arguing the burning of the companies’ products are causing local damage. Federal judges are likely to make final venue calls.

One level deeper: The companies and municipalities involved include:

  • State of Rhode Island; King County, Washington; Colorado counties of San Miguel and Boulder; City of Boulder
  • ExxonMobil, BP, Shell, ConocoPhillips, Chevron, Suncor, Citgo Petroleum, Hess and others.

Not all of these companies are named on all the lawsuits. The first five are the most commonly named. Other similar lawsuits are pending, including one brought by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Flashback: A federal judge dismissed a similar lawsuit filed by the California cities of San Francisco and Oakland last month after opting not to send the case to state court. Oil companies hope the above trio of lawsuits goes that same route. The final venue for another set of lawsuits from California municipalities has not yet been determined.

Go deeper: The flawed climate gambit against Big Oil.

Go deeper

Why made-for-TV moments matter during the pandemic

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Erin Schaff-Pool, Biden Inaugural Committee via Getty Images

In a world where most Americans are isolated and forced to laugh, cry and mourn without friends or family by their side, viral moments can offer critical opportunities to unite the country or divide it.

Driving the news: President Biden's inauguration was produced to create several made-for-social viral moments, a tactic similar to what the Democratic National Committee and the Biden campaign pulled off during the Democratic National Convention.

Updated 8 hours ago - World

Over 3,000 detained in protests across Russia demanding Navalny's release

Russian police officers beat protestesters at a rally against of jailing of oppositon leader Alexei Navalny in Moscow on Saturday. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Police in Russia on Saturday arrested more than 3,300 people as protesters nationwide demanded that opposition leader Alexey Navalny be released from jail.

Details: Demonstrations began in the eastern regions of Russia and spread west to more than 60 cities.

Updated 9 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Arizona Republicans censure Cindy McCain and GOP governor

Combination images of Cindy McCain and Gov. Doug Ducey. Photo: FilmMagic/FilmMagic for U.S.VETS/Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Arizona Republican Party members voted on Saturday to censure prominent GOP figures Cindy McCain, Gov. Doug Ducey and former Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who've all faced clashes with former President Trump.

Why it matters: Although the resolution is symbolic, this move plus the re-election of the Trump-endorsed Kelli Ward as state GOP chair shows the strong hold the former president has on the party in Arizona, despite President Biden winning the state in the 2020 election.