Climate Justice in Kivalina
In 2008 CRPE teamed up with the Native American Rights Fund and some of the nation’s top trial lawyers to file Native Village of Kivalina v. ExxonMobile Corp., No. 4:08-cv-1138 SBA (N.D. Cal.) against the nation’s top 24 greenhouse gas emitters. Our clients are the City of Kivalina and the Native Village of Kivalina, an Inupiat community in northwestern Alaska on the coast of the Chukchi Sea. The lawsuit alleges that the top global warming polluters in the U.S. are substantially contributing to global warming and the resulting damage to Kivalina.
Kivalina is facing increased arctic temperatures causing land-fast sea ice to form later in the fall and melt earlier in the spring, which allows storms to erode the island on which Kivalina rests. The disruption of sea ice also affects traditional subsistence hunting and fishing, because hunters cannot safely traverse dangerously thin ice. In early 2010, hunters could not hunt seal on the thin ice and whale hunting is exceptionally dangerous since sea ice does not extend as far into the Chuckchi Sea has historically been the case.
The lawsuit also alleges that a handful of the defendants have engaged in a civil conspiracy to mislead the public about the causes and effects of global warming. This may be one of the most promising aspects of the case considering it was this same argument that won the battle against big tobacco. Interestingly enough we have lawyers from both sides of the tobacco battle working with us.
Timeline of Legal Events
On October 15, 2009, U.S. District Court Judge Saundra B. Armstrong dismissed the lawsuit.
On November 5, 2009, the City of Kivalina appealed Judge Armstrong’s decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
On March 11, 2010, Kivalina’s team of lawyers filed the community’s opening brief.
On September 15, 2010, we filed our response to the arguments of the oil, energy, and coal company defendants’ arguments.
In September 2012, the Ninth Circuit ruled that the Clean Air Act, which does not provide damages as a remedy, prevented Kivalina from seeking damages in a lawsuit brought in Federal Court.
UPDATE: Native Village of Kivalina to Appeal in Landmark Climate Change Case (9.21.12)
UPDATE: Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Hears Climate Change Lawsuit (11.28.11)
"Courts as Battlefields in Climate Fights" via New York Times (1.26.10)