Native Village of Kivalina v. ExxonMobil

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Procedure
  • Date Filed: 09-21-2012
  • Case #: 09-17490
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Thomas for the Court; Circuit Judge Clifton; Concurrence by District Judge Pro
  • Full Text Opinion

Where Congress has displaced a cause of action under the federal common law, displacement extends to all potential remedies. The Clean Air Act displaces the federal common law cause of action for nuisance caused by the emission of green house gases.

The Native Village of Kivalina and the City of Kivalina filed suit against ExxonMobil, et. al., seeking public nuisance damages under the federal common law because of extensive greenhouse gas emissions emitted by ExxonMobil and other energy producers, which has resulted in global warming and subsequently threatened the existence of Kivalina, a village of four hundred located on the northwestern Alaskan coast. Kivalina appeals the district court's dismissal of its suit. The Court found that although a public nuisance claim exists under federal common law, it is limited by the authority of Congress and when "Congress has addressed a federal issue by statute, then there is no gap for federal common law to fill." Because the Clean Air Act authorized the EPA to limit emissions from power plants, "the Clean Air Act and the EPA actions it authorizes displace any federal common law right to seek abatement of such emissions." While Kivalina seeks damages and not an abatement of emissions, the Court concluded that once a cause of action is displaced by Congressional action, displacement extends to all remedies. AFFIRMED.

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