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26 Jan 2010

John Schwartz, New York Times

Courts as Battlefields in Climate Fights [USA]

Tiny Kivalina, Alaska,...has a very big lawsuit that might affect the way the nation deals with climate change... [It] is accusing two dozen fuel and utility companies of helping to cause the climate change that it says is accelerating the island’s erosion... The village wants the companies, including ExxonMobil, Shell Oil, and many others, to pay the costs of relocating to the mainland, which could amount to as much as $400 million. The case is one of three major lawsuits...around the nation against big producers of heat-trapping gases. And...the cases are gathering steam. In recent months, two federal appeals courts reversed decisions by federal district courts to dismiss climate-change lawsuits, allowing the cases to go forward... And although a federal judge...dismissed the Kivalina suit in October, the village is appealing the decision... Kivalina alleged in its complaint that the industry conspired “to suppress the awareness of the link” between emissions and climate change... If the climate-change cases even get to the discovery stage, and if the energy industry possesses embarrassing e-mail messages and memorandums..., [James Tierney, director of National State Attorneys General programme at Columbia Law School] said, “it’s a hammer” that could drive industries to the negotiating table. [also refers to American Electric Power]