NY City sues oil companies over climate change

17:52 • 11.01.18



The New York City government is suing the world’s five largest publicly traded oil companies, seeking to hold them responsible for present and future damage to the city from climate change, the Washington Post reports.

The suit, filed Tuesday against BP, Chevron, Conoco-Phillips, ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell, claims the companies together produced 11 percent of all of global-warming gases through the oil and gas products they have sold over the years. It also charges that the companies and the industry they are part of have known for some time about the consequences but sought to obscure them.


“In this litigation, the City seeks to shift the costs of protecting the City from climate change impacts back onto the companies that have done nearly all they could to create this existential threat,” reads the lawsuit, brought by New York corporation counsel Zachary Carter and filed in US District Court for the Southern District of New York.


The legal strategy has already been embraced by several California cities and counties, but prior lawsuits seeking to blame companies for their role in causing climate change have foundered.


It remains unclear whether a new wave of litigation — propelled by stronger climate science, reports about how much some companies knew about climate change decades ago, and somewhat divergent legal strategies — will succeed where those efforts failed.


In California last year, Marin County, San Mateo County and the city of Imperial Beach similarly sued a group of fossil fuel companies over damage related to climate change — citing a theory called “public nuisance,” which basically argues that companies are causing an injury to the localities under common law. The cities of San Francisco and Oakland and the city and county of Santa Cruz have also filed suit.


“I think the significant development here is that this is the first of these cases in this last year that’s filed outside of California,” said Michael Burger, who directs the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University. If more and more localities sue, “we might be able to see adequate pressure applied to these companies to inspire action on climate change,” he said.

 





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