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US Supreme Court strikes down oil companies' tactics to delay lawsuits against them from going to trial: 'Now they have to face the music'

"It's the industry's worst nightmare."

"It's the industry's worst nightmare."

Photo Credit: iStock

As climate awareness continues to grow, all eyes are on Big Oil. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected petitions from oil companies to move lawsuits from state courts to federal courts, which are considered more pro-business

According to Grist, around 30 lawsuits against Big Oil have been filed in the United States, a trend that began in California six years ago as the state tried to make oil giants pay for misleading the public about the dangers of burning polluting fuels. 

Most of the cases have been delayed as oil companies tried to keep them out of state courts. However, the Supreme Court struck down their request regarding three different cases, including one in Minnesota, which means oil executives could soon have to answer to a jury.

"It's the industry's worst nightmare to have to explain their lies in front of a jury," Richard Wiles, president of the environmental advocacy organization The Center for Climate Integrity, told Grist.

And now that the cases can move forward, there's even more damning evidence that could be presented to a jury based on researchers' findings. For example, just last year, a study by Harvard University and the University of Potsdam researchers found that Exxon's own scientists predicted the warming climate with just as much accuracy as independent scientists nearly 40 years ago. 

Also, Grist reported that hundreds of documents obtained by congressional investigators showed oil companies were trying to backtrack on commitments to reduce pollution. Meanwhile, a leaked email from a Shell employee revealed the company had no intention of meeting net-zero targets despite publicly agreeing to the plan.

The outlet said more evidence could also surface in the discovery process before trials. A case filed in Massachusetts against Exxon Mobil in 2019 is already in this stage and is expected to go to trial as soon as 2025, as Alyssa Johl, vice president for the CCI's legal program, told Grist.

If oil giants are forced to pay for the damage they've caused to the planet and communities, it will send the message that companies can no longer act against the public's best interest. As climate science continues to advance, it's clear that pollution-free clean energy is the future, which will create a healthier, safer world for everyone.

"Last year was a really pivotal year in terms of getting past the industry's big push and their delay tactics," Johl told Grist. "That issue and that effort has been put to rest, and now they have to face the music."

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