Ninth Circuit dismisses Alaska village claim over greenhouse emissions
The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed on Sept. 21 the dismissal of the Alaskan village of Kivalina's nuisance claims against energy companies for greenhouse emissions it claimed contributed to global warming and threatened its existence. Kivalina brought suit against 22 energy corporations, attributing the destruction of its land to the effects of global warming, which it alleged partially results from emissions of greenhouse gases by the defendants. The US District Court for the Northern District of California had dismissed the claim on standing in 2009, stating that because it was a political question the courts could not intervene. Citing to the Supreme Court's ruling in American Electric Power Co. v. Connecticut, the Ninth Circuit ruled that:
[T]he Supreme Court has held that federal common law addressing domestic greenhouse gas emissions has been displaced by Congressional action. That determination displaces federal common law public nuisance actions seeking damages, as well as those actions seeking injunctive relief. The civil conspiracy claim falls with the substantive claim. Therefore, we affirm the judgment of the district court. ... [T]he solution to Kivalina's dire circumstance must rest in the hands of the legislative and executive branches of our government, not the federal common law.
As one of the 22 defendants, AES Corporation had expected its insurance company, Steadfast, to defend the suit under their liability coverage. However, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled in September 2011 that the effects of global warming were not covered by a standard liability insurance policy because no single "accident" or "occurrence" had forced the suit, but rather intentional actions.
From Jurist, Sept. 23. Used with permission.