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Cities Vs Big Oil: Is It A Federal Case?

A view of a Chevron refinery in Richmond, Calif. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
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Local governments that sued big oil companies over the effects of climate change argued their case in a federal appeals court Wednesday.

It’s an unusual lawsuit – Oakland and San Francisco claim Chevron and four other large oil companies caused a public nuisance by selling their products that pollute the atmosphere with greenhouse gases.

The nuisance is climate change and the billions of dollars that Oakland and San Francisco will have to spend coping with problems like sea level rise.

The fossil fuel companies here that are responsible for that nuisance should bear the costs for dealing with it,” said deputy city attorney Matthew Goldberg.

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Justices of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena heard arguments over whether the case properly belongs in state court – the cities want that – or in Federal court, where the oil companies want it.

Theodore Boutrous, who argued on behalf of the oil company defendants, says the effects of global warming cross far beyond the California state line.

You can't have 50 states and all the countries around the world having all these different pieces of litigation,” Boutrous said. “So that's why we believe these cases belong in federal court.”

The appeals court is expected to issue a decision on the proper jurisdiction of the case later this year.