The law firm pushing cities and counties to sue fossil fuel companies over climate change has apparently offered a discount to snag a client in its own backyard.
Hagens Berman is representing King County, WA, in the latest case that accuses major energy companies of creating a “public nuisance” by causing climate change-related changes to the environment like rising sea levels. The firm calls its Seattle office, which is managed by co-founder Steve Berman, its “flagship” of 11 locations around the country.
King County, Wash., filed a lawsuit yesterday against the five biggest oil companies for climate damages, the latest in a growing group of municipalities taking on the oil industry.
The county, which is home to Seattle and more than 2 million people, is suing BP PLC, Chevron Corp., Exxon Mobil Corp., Royal Dutch Shell PLC and ConocoPhillips.
The complaint, filed in King County Superior Court, seeks an order requiring the companies to fund the costs of adapting infrastructure to climate damages, like stormwater management and salmon recovery systems. The abatement fund could be in the hundreds of millions of dollars, county attorneys said.
A small county in the state of Washington filed a lawsuit Wednesday targeting Exxon, Chevron, Conoco Phillips and several other oil companies for contributing to the effects of climate change.
The suit, which was brought by Seattle-based law firm Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro, seeks to create an abatement fund addressing changes to infrastructure, like bridge maintenance, salmon recovery and public health. It’s similar in scope and range to one Oakland and San Francisco filed in March 2018 against the same companies.
“[King County] does not seek to impose liability on Defendants for their direct emissions of greenhouse gases and does not seek to restrain Defendants from engaging in their business operations,” the lawsuit reads.
Republican attorneys general say they will aggressively fight a suite of lawsuits against fossil fuel companies over climate change damages.
The top law officials from three red states — South Carolina, Oklahoma and Arkansas — yesterday said they worry about cities and counties using the suits, which allege that oil companies’ greenhouse gas emissions have created a public nuisance, to set national energy policy.
“The courts are no place to determine national environmental policy, and public nuisance is not a theory that judges should employ in these kinds of cases,” said Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter (R), who became the state’s top lawyer when former Attorney General Scott Pruitt became administrator of EPA, at a roundtable for reporters hosted by the National Association of Manufacturers.
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.”