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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A bunch of huge oil companies told the Supreme Court in a new brief that state and local climate lawsuits against them belong in the federal court system.

Why it matters: The brief addresses the city of Baltimore's litigation seeking damages for climate-related harms — but it's relevant to roughly a dozen similar lawsuits nationwide that plaintiffs want litigated in state courts.

What they're saying: Lawyers for BP, Chevron, Exxon, Shell and others say Baltimore is seeking damages based on interstate and international emissions over many decades.

  • "Those claims fall squarely within the long line of cases holding that federal common law governs claims seeking redress for interstate air and water pollution," they write.
  • They argue the cases address "federal interest in setting domestic and foreign policy on matters involving energy, the environment, and the economy."

The intrigue: The procedural case, which SCOTUS agreed to take last month, doesn't directly tackle the substance of damage claims from cities and states.

  • Instead it turns on technical questions about defendants' ability to challenge decisions that sent cases back to state courts.
  • But that's super important to future battles over the substance!
  • Bloomberg Law's Ellen Gilmer points out that "federal courts are seen as more favorable to industry defendants."

What we're watching: Moves by the incoming Biden administration.

  • UCLA law professor Ann Carlson, who consults pro bono with plaintiffs suing oil companies, notes that the Justice Department has sided with the industry defendants on jurisdictional questions.
  • "The Trump Administration was actively supporting the oil company arguments in court," Carlson said via email.
  • "A Biden DOJ could (and in my view likely would) back away from these arguments and could even support the municipal and state plaintiffs."

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Jan 28, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Takeaways from Biden's sweeping order on climate change

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

President Biden's mammoth executive order on climate policy weighs in at over 7,500 words and resists any single narrative, but I've got a few initial takeaways.

Why it matters: The order aims to marshal the entire federal government behind new initiatives, so that means agencies that may not have the muscle memory or expertise of the resource and environmental branches like EPA and DOE.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Jan 28, 2021 - Economy & Business

Exxon is feeling the heat on climate change action

Expand chart
Data: Yahoo Finance; Chart: Axios Visuals

ExxonMobil, under pressure to boost financial performance and do more on climate change, says it's on the cusp of changes.

Driving the news: The oil giant said Wednesday it would soon update shareholders on plans to "build long-term, sustainable value," and new steps to commercialize tech that's "key to reducing emissions."

3 hours ago - Health

Meta removes over 600 accounts linked to COVID disinformation effort by China

Facebook's corporate headquarters campus in Menlo Park, California. Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images

Meta announced Wednesday it has removed over 600 Facebook and Instagram accounts linked to a Chinese influence operation that claimed the U.S. was pressuring the World Health Organization (WHO) to blame COVID on China.

Why it matters: Though Meta said the network was unsuccessful, it marks yet another COVID disinformation campaign instigated by China in an effort to discredit the U.S.