Fifteen states want a federal court’s approval to support oil companies in lawsuits by California cities seeking compensation for sea-level rise.
The attorneys general from Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming yesterday asked for permission to file an amicus brief supporting defendants in the cases before Judge William Alsup in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
A lawsuit filed in Colorado state court by the counties of Boulder and San Miguel and the city of Boulder seeks to force ExxonMobil and SunCor to be financially responsible for the costs they will bear in the future as the result of climate change. Others have sued fossil fuel companies in the past, but this is the first time a legal challenge has been mounted by communities not located in coastal areas.
Divestment is moving inland. Over the last several years, cities on both coasts, including Seattle, Minneapolis, and San Francisco have discussed divesting their city funds from fossil fuels. Some California municipalities and the city of New York have gone even further, starting lawsuits against major energy companies, bringing forth a lawsuit against several major oil companies for global warming damages. Now, for the first time, the lawsuits have left the coast and reached the mountains. On Tuesday afternoon, Boulder, Colorado became the first landlocked city to sue over damages they allege are connected to global warming. Under the terms of the lawsuit, the city of Boulder, and the counties of Boulder and San Miguel are suing Suncor and Exxon Mobil.
The municipalities join nine other coastal governments in lawsuits against fossil fuel producers.
The lawsuit alleges that global warming has “already harmed” residents of Colorado and that these harms will only accelerate in the future. The lawsuit comes after strong pressure from a series of environmentalist groups, including 350.org, the Sierra Club, and Earth Guardians.
Colorado communities on Tuesday launched a legal attack on the oil industry, demanding that Suncor Energy and ExxonMobil help pay for impacts of climate change that scientists link to producing and consuming fossil fuels.
A lawsuit filed in state court by San Miguel County, Boulder and Boulder County accuses Suncor, the Canadian company that runs a massive refinery just north of Denver, and Exxon of knowingly accelerating and worsening climate impacts by producing oil and gas that, when burned, emit billions of tons of carbon dioxide, which traps heat.
Industry groups swiftly counterattacked.
These are the first noncoastal U.S. communities to join a wave of municipalities taking legal action against fossil fuels producers — seeking compensation for dealing with climate change.
Boulder and San Miguel counties joined the city of Boulder on Tuesday in suing ExxonMobil and Suncor Energy, accusing the giant energy corporations of “reckless actions and damages” in helping to cause global climate change.
While nine other coastal governments — eight in California along with New York City — have filed climate lawsuits against fossil fuel producers, the Boulder lawsuit, which claims the defendants “knowingly and substantially contributed to the climate crisis,” is being called the first of its kind filed by communities in the nation’s interior.
The suit, which the Boulder City Council agreed to pursue earlier this year, alleges the two companies are responsible for “billions of tons of the excess greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere.”
Until recently, communities suing fossil fuel companies over the costs of climate change have been located on the coasts: cities and counties in California, and New York City. But now, the litigation has jumped inland.
Boulder and San Miguel Counties in Colorado, along with the city of Boulder, filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against two oil companies, Exxon Mobil and Suncor Energy, the Canadian giant. The suit, filed in state court, argues that fossil fuels sold by the companies contribute to climate change, which in turn has exacerbated wildfires, droughts, severe storms and other symptoms of a warming planet that have far-ranging effects on agriculture and tourism.
Dealing with these climate-related issues, the suit says, places a burden on local governments. “Our communities and our taxpayers should not shoulder the cost of climate change adaptation alone,” said Suzanne Jones, Boulder’s mayor. “These oil companies need to pay their fair share.”
The city of Boulder and two Colorado counties today sued Suncor Energy Inc. and Exxon Mobil Corp., joining a growing list of cities suing oil and gas companies for damages associated with climate change.
The lawsuit alleges that the companies are responsible for altering Colorado’s climate by releasing greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere and that they “concealed and misrepresented” the dangers of fossil fuel use from the public.
The companies’ actions have caused harm to residents and the state’s high-altitude ecosystems, according to the lawsuit. Climate change, the suit says, has affected local economies, roads and bridges, parks, buildings, agriculture and the state’s ski industry.
The nation’s largest manufacturing association is asking the Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate what the group alleges is wrongdoing committed by seven California municipalities and New York City in their municipal bond offerings.
The National Association of Manufacturers announced Thursday that it had sent a March 27 letter to LeeAnn Gaunt, chief of the SEC’s Public Finance Abuse Unit, asking her to investigate alleged fraud committed by New York and the California municipalities of City of San Francisco, City of Oakland, Imperial Beach, City of Richmond, City and County of Santa Cruz, Marin County, and San Mateo County.
Each of these localities have filed lawsuits against oil companies seeking billions of dollars in damages to pay for infrastructure to protect coastal cities from potential rising floodwaters that they say could result from global warming.
The oil industry is hitting back after being sued for climate damages by California cities and counties.
The Manufacturers’ Accountability Project (MAP), an oil industry supporter, demanded a swath of records from the municipalities that sued more than 20 oil companies. Citing a state public records law, MAP asked for paperwork, cellphone records, reports, memos, payments and other documents containing oil company names. They’re also asking for city contracts with law firms working on contingency, a form of payment that awards a percent of what the firm is able to win.
MAP, an arm of the National Association of Manufacturers, said it wants to expose details of the eight lawsuits against oil companies filed by California municipalities.
Global moves to tackle climate change through lawsuits are poised to break new ground this week, as groups and individuals seek to hold governments and companies accountable for the damage they are causing.
[…] Industry lobby groups are also mobilising against climate litigation in the US, with the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) launching a campaign against “politically motivated legal attacks” in November. “It has become clear that these activist plaintiffs’ attorneys, sympathetic academics and agenda-driven media outlets are distorting the use of tort litigation to advance their narratives with the ultimate objective of undermining manufacturers and the engine of the American economy,” said Linda Kelly, NAM general counsel.
Read more on the MAP’s work to pull back the curtain and expose this coordinated web of activists, trial lawyers and politicians.