You might, before doing anything else, read this and learn about the way in which the courts have been packed to protect the corporate polluters…



The Judicial Branch of the federal government is responsible for interpreting and reviewing the country’s laws. The Supreme Court is the most powerful body of the Judicial Branch. About 8,000 cases are filed with the Supreme Court each year, but only about 80 are chosen to be heard and decided by the Court. The Supreme Court is the only court where the Justices make the decision whether or not to hear a case. Most often, a case makes it to the Supreme Court after the plaintiffs involved appeal the ruling of one of the US Courts of Appeal.

There are numerous cases weaving their way through the courts. Exxon Mobil, for example, is facing a wave of lawsuits driven in large part by revelations which began surfacing in 2015.  These revelations indicated that the climate crisis was not the result of blind error, or even willful ignorance, but rather calculated abuses of power.  Exxon had conducted scientific studies that showed the warming effect of carbon emissions and predicted the dire consequences of climate change, before spending millions on misinformation to derail regulation and solidify international dependence on fossil fuels. Massachusetts and New York have both sued Exxon for fraud.

Meanwhile, cities like San Francisco, New York City, Richmond and others have filed suits for damages from climate change against companies like Chevron, BP, Shell, and ConocoPhillips in addition to Exxon. Several high-profile cases challenging the expansion of oil pipelines are also being litigated.

And, then there is the landmark case of Juliana v. US, brought by 21 young people in 2015, which argues that the federal government’s duty to serve as a trustee of resources extends to the atmosphere, and that it had thus failed in that constitutional duty. A full and fascinating history of this litigation can be found here.

Just as many of these cases are winding their way through the courts, the makeup of the highest court in the land has changed dramatically. Following the death of renowned Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on September 18, 2020, Trump filled her seat with Amy Coney Barrett on September 26th. Barrett promises to shift the court to the far right for decades to come and environmental organizations have already expressed concern that she will be favorable towards fossil fuel companies.

Most recently, on October 2, 2020, the Supreme Court agreed to review a Fourth Circuit ruling that a Baltimore suit — seeking to put energy giants like Chevron and ExxonMobil on the hook for climate related infrastructure damages — belonged in state court.

What Is the Judicial Branch of the U.S. Government? | History



The Lawfarm Climatechange scorecard

Climate Scores For Vault 100 Law Firms 1

U.S. Climate Change Litigation

Cases in the U.S. database are organized by type of claim and may be filtered by the principal laws they address, their filing years, and their jurisdictions. The database is also searchable by keyword. In…

Mapped: Climate change laws around the world

There has been a 20-fold increase in the number of global climate change laws since 1997, according to the most comprehensive database of relevant policy and legislation.

Congress and Climate Change

Federal efforts to address climate change are undertaken under laws, and with funding, approved by Congress. Like other complex economy-wide challenges, climate change touches on a wide array of interests. The stakes vary from sector…

Our Focus: Climate Change

Climate change is not a new challenge for CLF. We’ve been working to address its root causes for decades and have played a part in critical milestones to curb its progress. We helped design the…

Environmental Law 101: Climate Change

A short, but thorough, introduction from a leading environmental law think tank on climate change and what is being done to combat it through legal action and policy.

Federal Action on Climate

Given the far-reaching nature of the climate challenge, effective federal policy is needed to achieve deep, long-term reductions in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and to help strengthen climate resilience across the U.S. economy. Even in…

Judicial – Key resources – content to come

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Supreme Court Puts Brakes on EPA in Far-Reaching Decision

By Jan Wolfe and Timothy Puko   06/30/22  
The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that federal regulators exceeded their authority in seeking to limit emissions from coal plants in a decision that sharply curtails the executive branch’s authority to make policy actions on a…

U.S. Supreme Court limits federal power to curb carbon emissions

By Lawrence Hurley and Valerie Volcovici   06/30/22  
The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday imposed limits on the federal government's authority to issue sweeping regulations to reduce carbon emissions from power plants in a ruling that undermines President Joe Biden's plans to tackle…

Court Decision Leaves Biden With Few Tools to Combat Climate Change

By Coral Davenport  Photo: Kenny Holston   06/30/22  
One by one, the tools available to President Biden to fight climate change are being stripped away. After a Supreme Court decision on Thursday, the Environmental Protection Agency will have less authority to limit carbon…

What the Supreme Court’s Ruling on the ‘Clean Air Act’ Means for Carbon Emissions

By Emily Barone  Photo: George Frey/Getty Images   06/30/22  
On Thursday, the Supreme Court issued a ruling that will hamstring the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) authority to regulate carbon emissions from power plants. The outcome of the case is a big deal for tackling…

Supreme Court’s EPA ruling upends Biden’s environmental agenda

By Maxine Joselow   06/30/22  
The Supreme Court’s ruling Thursday limiting the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate carbon emissions could have far-reaching consequences, according to legal experts, which could curb President Biden’s ambitious plans to tackle climate change along…

What you need to know about the Supreme Court’s EPA case

By Dino Grandoni  Photo: Dane Rhys/Reuters   06/30/22  
The Supreme Court on Thursday curtailed the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to cut climate-warming carbon from the nation’s power plants, handing down a decision in the biggest court case on climate change in more than…

How the U.S. Supreme Court could hobble Biden’s climate efforts

By Valerie Volcovici  Photo: REUTERS/Dane Rhys/File Photo   06/28/22  
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling this week that will determine the degree to which the Environmental Protection Agency can regulate greenhouse gas emissions as an air pollutant.

What’s the next outrage from an illegitimate Supreme Court?

By Bill McKibben   06/24/22  
Having put us in a post-Roe world, they may be aiming for a post-world world. Since the decision leaked this spring—and, really, since transparently political justices Kavanagh and Barrett won their confirmations—one has expected this…

The Supreme Court case that could doom U.S. climate goals

Hosted by Sabrina Tavernise  Photo: Brian Snyder/Reuters   06/23/22  
The government’s power to tackle pollution is not the only question at stake in a potentially far-reaching lawsuit.

Republican drive to tilt courts against climate action reaches a crucial moment

By Coral Davenport  Photo: Tamir Kalifa for The New York Times   06/19/22  
A Supreme Court environmental case being decided this month is the product of a coordinated, multiyear strategy by Republican attorneys general and conservative allies.

How SCOTUS’ upcoming climate ruling could defang Washington

By Alex Guillen and Others  Photo: Drew Angerer , Getty Images   06/12/22  
The Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling this month hobbling the Biden administration’s efforts to rein in greenhouse gases — but its impact could weaken Washington’s power to oversee wide swaths of American…

In Hawaii, youth are suing over climate inaction

By Julia Kane   06/02/22  
As Tropical Storm Olivia bore down on the island of Maui in September 2018, Kaliko and her family grabbed their most important belongings and fled. The storm inundated the island with more than a foot…

Supreme Court allows Biden climate regulations while fight continues

By Robert Barnes and Anna Phillips  Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images   05/26/22  
The Supreme Court on Thursday allowed the Biden administration, for now, to use a higher estimate for the societal cost of rising greenhouse gases when federal agencies draft regulations.

Jimmy Carter, at 97, Steps Into a Big Fight Over a Small Road in Alaska

By Henry Fountain  Photo: Acacia Johnson , The New York Times   05/25/22  
By Alaskan standards, the gravel road that an isolated community near the Aleutian Islands wants to build to connect to an airport is not a huge project. But because it would be cut through a…

Exxon Will Have to Face Climate Lawsuits After ‘Free Speech’ Defense Fails

By Lauren Leffer  Photo: Angela Weiss , Getty Images   05/25/22  
In a last-ditch effort to avoid a Massachusetts lawsuit, Exxon claimed being sued violated its First Amendment right to free speech. On Tuesday, that motion to dismiss the suit was thrown out in the state’s…

United States Court of Appeals For the First Circuit


Climate lawsuits poised for new Supreme Court fight

By Lesley Clark  Photo: AP Photo   05/18/22  
Climate liability lawsuits from state and local governments against fossil fuel companies are creeping closer to a new Supreme Court showdown.

Biden presses 5th Circuit to uphold key climate metric

By Lesley Clark  Photo: Evan Vucci , AP Photo   05/05/22  
The Biden administration and red states are dueling in multiple courts after a federal judge temporarily blocked use of the social cost of carbon.

Established Precedent, Bodily Autonomy No Longer Safe

The draft Supreme Court opinion striking down decades of established precedent protecting the right to privacy and right to obtain an abortion could have substantial implications for environmental law and climate policy. At issue is…

California Attorney General Investigates the Oil and Gas Industry’s Role in Plastic Pollution, Subpoenas Exxon

By James Bruggers   04/30/22  
The oil and gas industry has a new battle to fight with California Attorney General Rob Bonta’s first-of-its-kind investigation into their role in the global plastics crisis—and it looks a lot like one they’ve been…

GOP-led states ask Supreme Court to block key Biden climate accounting measure

By John Kruzel   04/28/22  
A group of Republican-led states on Thursday asked the Supreme Court to reinstate a court order blocking a key climate accounting measure put in place by the Biden administration amid a legal dispute with potentially…

States, environmental groups sue USPS over gas-powered trucks

By Zack Budryk   04/28/22  
Sixteen states and a coalition of environmental groups on Thursday announced a lawsuit against the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) for its decision to upgrade the majority of its fleet with fossil fuel-powered vehicles.

Court sides with Calif. cities in climate litigation fight

By Lesley Clark  Photo: Terry Chea , AP Photo   04/20/22  
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected arguments from the oil and gas industry to move the lawsuit to federal court. The ruling is the third win for local governments this year.

Suing over climate change: Taking fossil fuel companies to court

If climate change were a disaster film, it would likely be accused of being too over-the-top: wildfires reducing entire towns to ashes, hurricanes swamping cities, droughts draining lakes and withering fields, and raging oceans redrawing…

This Canadian river is now legally a person. It’s not the only one.

By Chloe Berge   04/15/22  
With its thunderous rapids carving through a wild boreal forest in Quebec’s Côte-Nord region, the Magpie River is well known to white water rafters from around the globe. What these travelers may not know is…

Regan says Supreme Court climate ruling is ‘a tough call’

By Kelsey Tamborrino and Alex Guillen  Photo: Vincent Desjardins   03/24/22  
Preparing a new greenhouse gas regulation for power plants is difficult until the Supreme Court rules on the scope of EPA’s authority, Administrator Michael Regan said Thursday.

Exxon cannot argue political motives as defense in climate suit – Mass. judge

By Nate Raymond  Photo: Lee Celano , Reuters   03/23/22  
A Massachusetts judge on Tuesday barred Exxon Mobil Corp from arguing improper, political motives were behind the state's attorney general suing the oil company for allegedly misleading consumers and investors about its role in climate…

Government Is Flailing, in Part Because Liberals Hobbled It

By Ezra Klein  Photo: Justin Sullivan , Getty Images   03/13/22  
There’s a strange story unfolding in Berkeley, Calif., right now. That may present as a tautology, but bear with me. This one provides a window into a problem that endangers us all.

Supreme Court hears case on EPA GHGs regulation

By Lexi Smith   03/07/22  
Oral arguments held February 28 gave attorneys on both sides of West Virginia v. EPA, which concerns the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gasses, the chance to present their case before the Justices of the…

Republicans threaten EPA authority via SCOTUS while UN warns against inaction

By Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.)   02/28/22  
U.N. report finds nations not acting fast enough to protect populations from current and future climate threats, as the Supreme Court takes up case that threatens the EPA’s authority to regulate pollution

Supreme Court will hear biggest climate change case in a decade

By Coral Davenport  Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press   02/27/22  
The court could handcuff President Biden’s climate change agenda — and restrict federal agencies from enacting new regulations governing health, workplace safety and more.

Supreme court case could restrict Biden’s effort to tackle climate crisis

By Oliver Milman  Photo: Clarence Holmes Photography/Alamy   02/24/22  
Court to hear West Virginia case that takes aim at EPA’s ability to issue strict rules to curb pollution from fossil fuel power stations.

Update: Supreme Court to weigh EPA authority on greenhouse pollutants

By Lexi Smith   02/09/22  
The Supreme Court in late February is to hear West Virginia v. EPA, a case challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gasses as pollutants. This site in November explored best- and worst-case…

Federal court revokes oil and gas leases, citing climate change

By Lisa Friedman  Photo: Eric Gay/Associated Press   01/27/22  
A judge ruled that the Interior Department must consider the climate impacts of oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico before awarding leases.

The Supreme Court takes on the nation’s bedrock environmental laws

By Maxine Joselow  Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg News   01/25/22  
The Supreme Court ​​​​​​said yesterday that it would hear a challenge to the scope of the Clean Water Act, sparking concern from environmentalists that the high court could narrow the law's reach “in ways long…

It’s Time to Hold Law Firms Accountable for Their Role in Climate Change

By Leehi Yona and David Cremins  Photo: Michael Nigro / Getty   01/12/22  
For too long, law firms have been given carte blanche for their contributions to the climate crisis: They lobby on behalf of the fossil fuel industry, file the paperwork necessary for carbon-emitting projects, and litigate…

Supreme Court to weigh EPA authority to regulate greenhouse pollutants

By Lexi Smith   11/07/21  
The Supreme Court agreed to hear a case, West Virginia v. EPA, challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases as pollutants. The case presents an opportunity for the Court to overturn key…

U.S. Congress Adds Fresh Ammunition to Corporate Climate Fight

By Tina Casey   09/20/21  
Some leading U.S. corporations have been striving to reduce their carbon emissions, only to run up against obstacles posed by an economy that still depends heavily on fossil fuels. Now it appears they have gained…

Judge sides with Hoboken in climate lawsuit venue fight

By Alex Guillen  Photo: Tony Gutierrez , AP   09/08/21  
A federal judge in New Jersey ruled on Wednesday that the city of Hoboken's climate lawsuit against Exxon Mobil and other oil and gas companies should be sent back to state court, the latest in…

Federal Judge Strikes Down Trump Rule Governing Water Pollution

By Coral Davenport  Photo: Amr Alfiky/The New York Times   09/01/21  
A federal judge on Monday struck down a Trump-era environmental rule that drastically limited federal restrictions against pollution of millions of streams, wetlands and marshes across the country. The Biden administration had already begun the…

Federal judge throws out Trump administration rule allowing the draining and filling of streams, marshes and wetlands

By Dino Grandoni and Brady Dennis  Photo: Salwan Georges/The Washington Post   08/31/21  
A federal judge Monday threw out a major Trump administration rule that scaled back federal protections for streams, marshes and wetlands across the United States, reversing one of the previous administration’s most significant environmental rollbacks.

As Biden urges global warming action, courts shape climate policy at home

By Dino Grandoni and Steven Mufson  Photo: Charles Mostoller , Bloomberg News   08/19/21  
At a time when President Biden is urging international leaders to address global warming quickly, court actions this week make it clear that the U.S. judiciary is shaping the United States’ climate trajectory as much…

IPCC report a ‘call to arms’ for climate science in courts, legal experts say

By Chloe Farand  Photo: Bart Hoogveld , Milieudfensie   08/12/21  
The findings of a major climate science report, backed by 195 governments, will strengthen the case of plaintiffs seeking to force governments and companies to take greater climate action, legal experts have told Climate Home…

Federal judge blocks Biden’s pause on new oil, gas leases

By Kevin McGill   06/16/21  
The Biden administration’s suspension of new oil and gas leases on federal land and water was blocked Tuesday by a federal judge in Louisiana who ordered that plans continue for lease sales that were delayed…

Supreme Court Gives Big Oil a Win in Climate Fight With Cities

By John Schwartz  Photo: Associated Press   05/17/21  
The Supreme Court handed a victory to fossil fuel companies on Monday in a major climate change case, but gave the industry far less than it had asked for.

U.S. state officials urge Garland to reverse Trump positions on climate deception cases

By Valerie Volcovici   04/06/21  
 The attorneys general of five U.S. states and the District of Columbia on Monday called on President Joe Biden’s Justice Department to withdraw legal briefs filed in support of fossil fuel companies in litigation during…

Court tosses Trump rule limiting emissions regulations

By Rachel Frazin   04/05/21  
A panel of federal appeals judges Washington, D.C., on Monday nixed a Trump administration rule that would have prevented the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from setting greenhouse gas limits on multiple polluting industries.

12 states sue Biden over ‘social cost’ calculation of greenhouse gases

By Rachel Frazin   03/08/21  
Twelve states are suing the Biden administration for trying to establish a "social cost" of greenhouse gases to use in agency rulemaking. In a lawsuit filed on Monday, the states argued that a January executive…

Judge throws out Trump rule limiting what science EPA can use

By Juliet Eilperin  Photo by Jabin Botsford   02/02/21  
A federal judge on Monday vacated the Trump administration rule limiting which scientific studies the Environmental Protection Agency can use in crafting public health protections, overturning one of the last major actions taken by the…

Court Voids a ‘Tortured’ Trump Climate Rollback

By Lisa Friedman  Photo by Scott Olson   01/19/21  
A federal appeals court on Tuesday struck down the Trump administration’s plan to relax restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, paving the way for President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. to enact new and…