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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

Amy Harder, author of Generate
18 hours ago - Energy & Environment
Column / Harder Line

Subsidizing and innovating away climate change

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Washington lawmakers may throw billions of taxpayer dollars at clean energy next year, prompting a rush of ideas about how to do it and how effective it can be at tackling climate change.

Driving the news: With the federal government’s political power likely divided, the biggest policies are likely to come through an economic recovery package in the form of subsidies and other spending.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Key government agency says Biden transition can formally begin

General Services Administrator Emily Murphy. Photo: Alex Edelman/CNP/Getty Images

General Services Administrator Emily Murphy said in a letter to President-elect Joe Biden on Monday that she has determined the transition from the Trump administration can formally begin.

Why it matters: Murphy, a Trump appointee, had come under fire for delaying the so-called "ascertainment" and withholding the funds and information needed for the transition to begin while Trump's legal challenges played out.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Vaccines: Key information about the effective COVID-19 vaccines — Oxford and AstraZeneca's vaccine won't just go to rich countries.
  2. Health: U.S. coronavirus hospitalizations keep breaking recordsWhy we're numb to 250,000 deaths.
  3. World: England to impose stricter regional systemU.S. hotspots far outpacing Europe's — Portugal to ban domestic travel for national holidays.
  4. Economy: The biggest pandemic labor market drags.
  5. Sports: Coronavirus precautions leave college basketball schedule in flux.