Washington - Perched at the tip of an Arctic barrier reef in harsh northwestern Alaska, a tiny village took on big oil for causing the climate change that is eroding its shores, but lost its court fight Monday.
The US Supreme Court declined to hear the case of Kivalina vs Exxon.
Therefore, a lower court's decision stands, holding that energy companies cannot be sued collectively for harm done by climate change and leaving such issues to lawmakers and the executive branch of government.
The village of Kivalina is home to about 400 people, mostly Inupiat Native Alaskans, and is being forced to relocate because global warming has led to a reduction in sea ice that once protected its shores.
The lawsuit was brought in 2008 against 22 energy companies, including ExxonMobil Corporation, BP, Chevron and Shell, seeking damages under a federal common law claim of "public nuisance".
The suit alleged that "massive greenhouse gas emissions emitted by the Energy Producers have resulted in global warming, which, in turn, has severely eroded the land where the City of Kivalina sits and threatens it with imminent destruction."
A buildup in greenhouse gases is increasing the temperature of the planet, causing sea levels to rise, ice caps to melt and "destroying its land by melting the Arctic sea ice that formerly protected the village from winter storms", court documents said.
The US Army Corps of Engineers estimates that it will cost more than $95m to relocate the village.