SAN FRANCISCO AND OAKLAND SUING OIL COMPANIES
BY CRAIG MEDRED
Fourteen oil-and-gas producing states joined Indiana to support the major oil companies as they fend off a climate change lawsuit by San Fransisco and Oakland.
Alaska is not among them.
Although the potential threat to state oil revenues is huge, the Alaska Department of Law says it isn’t participating because it never got invited to intervene.
The two California cities want BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell to establish a fund to pay the costs of repairing local infrastructure that might be affected by global warming. The costs could be in the billions in California alone.
Chevron, the lead defendant in the case, tried to get the suit dismissed on the grounds it targets oil and gas production when the real issue in the climate debate is carbon dioxide emissions from the use of those fuels.
“CHEVRON’S LAWYER, SPEAKING FOR MAJOR OIL COMPANIES, SAYS CLIMATE CHANGE IS REAL AND IT’S YOUR FAULT,” The Verge headlined after U.S. District Judge William Aslup held a March hearing.
Since then, more communities and counties around the country have trooped into the federal courts with lawsuits mimicking those filed by San Fransisco and Oakland. Boulder and San Miguel counties in Colorado last week sued Exxon Mobil and Suncor, a Canadian oil company, claiming the Western snowpack was shrinking, hurting the state’s water supply and agriculture, and threatening its $5 billion ski industry.
TEARING A PAGE FROM TOBACCO LAWSUITS
The litigation is similar to that filed against tobacco companies years ago. San Fransisco and Oakland argue the oil companies knew about global warming and yet continued to produce oil and gas in a way that constitutes “a ‘public nuisance’ that the federal judiciary should enjoin.”
To amend for willfully contributing to global warming, the pioneering lawsuit argues, the companies should be required “to fund a climate change adaptation program for San Francisco consisting of the building of sea walls, raising the elevation of low-lying property and buildings and building such other infrastructure as is necessary for San Francisco to adapt to climate change.”
The suit argues the oil companies “borrowed the Big Tobacco playbook in order to promote their products.”