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Appeals Court Examining Global Warming Suit by Katrina Victims

WASHINGTON -- A class action suit brought by residents from southern Mississippi, which was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, will be re-examined by a federal appeals court within the next three months, according to the AFP news service.

The suit, alleging that carbon gas-emitting multinational corporations helped fuel global warming and boosted the devastating impact of the storm, was first filed just weeks after the hurricane hit.

"The plaintiffs allege that defendants' operation of energy, fossil fuels, and chemical industries in the United States caused the emission of greenhouse gasses that contributed to global warming," said the documents seen by AFP.

The increase in global surface air and water temperatures "in turn caused a rise in sea levels and added to the ferocity of Hurricane Katrina, which combined to destroy the plaintiffs' private property, as well as public property useful to them."

The suit, claiming compensation and punitive damages from multinational companies including Shell, ExxonMobil, BP and Chevron, already passed several key legal hurdles, after initially being knocked back by the lowest court. Other companies named in the suit include Honeywell and American Electric Power.

Three federal appeals court judges decided in October 2009 that the case could be heard. But in February the same court decided to re-examine whether it could be heard this time with nine judges.

The district court, which initially rejected the case, ruled that it was "a debate which simply has no place in the court." The court argued that Congress first had to enact legislation "which sets appropriate standards by which this court can measure conduct."

Mississippi residents must now wait for the appeals court to fix a new hearing, in principle within the next three months.

A decision would then be due by the end of 2010, and both sides could also then take the case to the Supreme Court, according to AFP.
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