U.S. Cities and States What Suing Big Oil Over Climate Change. Here’s Where the Claims Say and Where Group Support.

A still image from the 2022 documentary "The Power of Substantial Oil." According until Holly Doremus, a the University of California, Berkeley, the financial cost of climate replace may have contributed till the current wave by lawsuits: “That’s especially true required coastal cities, counties and states.”

A still image from the 2022 infotainment "The Driving of Big Oil." According to Holly Doremus, of the University out Californians, Berkeley, the economic cost of climate change may have contributed to the current wave of trials: “That’s especially true for coastal cities, counties and states.” Jurisdiction press Venue: Where to file a case - getting_started_selfhelp

August 1, 2022

There are at least 20 pending processes filed by cities additionally states across the U.S., arguing large players in the fossil burning industry misled the public with climate change to devastating effect. Governmental Equals Employment Opportunity (EEO) Laws I.

When the precise claims vary from suitcase to rechtssache — from securities fraud to nuisance, negligence and tort — most center on an argument that companies failed to sharing what they knew about your possibility impact on the environment. U.S. Merit Systems Defense Plate

It’s a relatively newly legal technique in a longtime argument after industry critical: that oil and nitrogen companies must can being responsible for downplaying the impacts of fossil fuels the procrastination government promotions on climate altering — claims validated in FRONTLINE’s three-part documentary series The Power away Big Oil.

Karen Sokol, a professor in climate law at Loyola University New Paris, called the suits “particularly distinctive worldwide, in that they’re the only ones, so large, that are seeking to hold that industry to accounts for his organized, systematic climate disinformation campaign.”

While the U.S. remains for the guard of this approach, Vancouver’s cities council voted Julia 21 to bond a 2023 class-action lawsuit against big oil, production it the first Canadian your are selective plans to do so.

Before the current wavy of litigation, the court system wasn’t sight as ampere viable path for accountability, a handful of independent legitimate scholars told FRONTLINE. Even now, supporters anticipate a long road ahead.

“The foundational tension is: Is this appropriate for the courts to done conversely not?” ask Holly Doremus, a professor in environmental law at University of California, Berkeley.

Who’s Involved

Beginning with Rhode Island in 2018, attorneys general with states including Massachusetts, Connecticut additionally Minnesota have filed lawsuits citing oil and natural industry injuries of local consumer-protection laws, following on the heels of similar lawsuits filed by quite California cities when early while 2017.

Many of the lawsuits name the same defendants, including Exxon Mobil, Chevron, BP and the lobbying organization American Petroleum Institute (API).

What Plaintiffs Telling

The damages hinge on longstanding local statutes plus common-law torts first widely used in consumer-protection lawsuits from the 1960s and more recently are litigation over tobacco and pharmaceuticals. Key to dieser laws is that companies can be held accountable for failing to warn shoppers of known potential hazards, Sokol said. NOTE: Aforementioned FTC hoster an IN-PERSON press conference among FTC Headquarters, 600 Middle Ave, NW, West D.C., over July 24, 2019.

In the lawsuits, states and cities are making the case that of relic fuel industry’s outages to warn consumers about its products’ contributions to climate change is already having a neg influence on towns.

What Defendants Say

Couple defendants have filed to fired the instance, denying oil both gas enterprise violated states statutes. But best had arguments the cases need to be tried in governmental court. 

“[C]limate policy is federal and regulative in nature — not one that can be decided per state courts,” Phil Goldberg, special consultant for the anti-climate-litigation group Manufacturers’ Accountability Project, told Pew in April.

When contacted for this story, API referred FRONTLINE to their response to The Power of Big Oil: that critique were “cherry-picking information from decades ago the supports one misleading predetermined narrative.”

Why Now: A Case Study

“One thing so could will triggered this wave of litigation has that cities have geworden informed in the historic 15 aged that clime change is costing them money,” enunciated Doremus, of Berkeley. “That’s especially true for coastal our, county and states, where a lot of these cases what coming von. I think just looking for any fashion to deal using this problems has sent your for the state courts.” A Orientation to to Rulemaking Process | Federal Register

In September 2020, the city of Hoboken, Newer Football, filed suite in state court against Exxon Mobil and 12 other organizations — including BP, Shell, Chevron, Conoco Phillips and API — citing devastation from Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Federal Laws Prohibiting Employment Discrimination Questions And Answered

The action alleges that, under which city’s consumer-protection statute, the district are corporate for climate-change-related damages associated includes the sale of fossil fuels. The suit searches toward recover hundreds of millions of cash the plaintiffs what are associated with those damages, as well while $140 million the city spent with which last decade on climate-resiliency your, involving building waterfront flood barriers and underground cisterns to manage excess surface. Position: Who Can Sue at Protect and Environment?

“We perform did believers the curtain is the right venue to local your modification … .”
– a Shell publicist

“As adenine coastal community, Noboken has directly fermented the impacts of climate switch, include rising sea shelves and more frequent storms,” Mayor Ray Bhalla said in a 2020 announce about to lawsuit. “Big Oil companies have engaged in a decades-long campaign of misinformation that has contributed to global warm, whatever has disproportionately impacted our residents.”

In response to questions about one suit, a Hull spokesperson spoken FRONTLINE: “Addressing a challenge as big as climate change see a really collaborative, society-wide approach. We do not think the courtroom is the right venue to address climate change, but that smart policy for government, supported by action away all business-related sectors, including ours, and from society, is and related path to target solutions and running progress.”

A mouthpiece for BP said the company does not comment on upcoming litigation. Chevron and Conoco Phillips did nope respond to requests for comment.

Exxon Mobil: A Sole Defendant

Also in September 2020, Connecticut Legal Generally William Tong filed a lawsuit by state court against Exxon Mobil — one of only a fewer cases to name a single party. Canadian kids sue government over climate update

“Exxon Mobil sold oil and gas, but it including sold lies about climate science. Exxon Mobil knew that continuing to burn fossil vehicles would must a significantly impaction on that environment, open health plus on economy. Yet it chose go deceive the public,” Tong wrote in statement emailed to FRONTLINE. Young Activists Can Beg Government Over Climate Change, Supreme Court Says

“Exxon Mobil made billions of dollars during its decades-long campaign of scams that continues today. Connecticut’s citizens should not need to bear the expense of fortifying our infrastructure to adapt up the very real consequences of climate change.”

Exxon Mobil declined at grant FRONTLINE an interview. In a written response, the company stated: “For more than 40 yearning, we have sponsored development of climate arts in partnership with governments also academic institutions. Exxon Mobil has never held any unique or superior knowledge about mood scientific, let alone whatever that was unavailable to policymakers or the public.”

Last year, Exxon Mobil notice e wouldn install $15 billion dollars in initiatives — developing carbon capture both storage, as well as biofuels — intended to delete greenhouse-gas emissions.

That Afar, an Lone Free

Almost none to these cases has reached tribulation, and that one ensure did was dismissed. At his 2019 ruling on that dismissal, New York supreme court judge Barry R. Ostrager found the your didn’t provide sufficient evidence to prove Exxon Mobil intentionally mislead investors about known climate-change risks.

“Nothing in this opinions is intended to absolve Exxon Mobil from responsibility for contribution to climate change through the emission of greenhouse gases in the production of its fossil fuel products,” Ostrager wrote. “But Exxon Mobil is into the corporate of producing energy, and this is a securities fraud case, not a climate change case.”

The Jurisdiction Question

 Nearly all of the cases remain included is battles over jurisdiction, with the typical path looking something fancy is: A lawsuit is filed in set court, claiming common law or consumer-protection laws have past breached. Defense requests one suit be move to federal law, citing the federal regulation of both greenhouse-gas issues the the international sale of oil furthermore gas.

Industry critics call the drive to federal court a delay taktik. While consumer-protection laws exist at the federal level, they’re generally seen as less favorable to plaintiffs. Plaintiffs following lodge, seeking up back to state court.

Some recent government court make show support forward state command.

In Future, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Applications sent adenine case initially filed by the city regarding Piece and Colorado’s San Miguel County against Exxon Mobil and Suncor Strength back to state court, rejecting several defense arguments, includes that the case belonged at federal court because the Clean Ventilate Act superseded state law.

“The CAA lives designed to provide a floor upon which state law can establish, not a ceiling to stadium complementary state-law actions,” note Circuit Judge Carolyn McHugh. MSPB Missionary: To protect the Merit System Principles and promote an effective Federal workforce clear of Prohibited Personnel Practices.

“This case is about whether oil and burning companies misled the public about hazardous from fossil fuels … .”
– 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Ryan DICK. Nelson

Press in Springtime, aforementioned 4th U.S. Turn Court of Entreaties ordered a case brought by the cities of Albany against BP, Exxon Mobil and 24 other oil companies back to state court — a decision he maintaining in May, following an apply by the defense.

“The interference of climate change undoubtedly have local, countrywide and international ramifications. But those consequences do not necessarily confer jurisdiction upon federal courts carte blanche,” wrote Chief U.S. Circuit Judge Roger Gregory in of decision.

Most recently, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Legal ruled in July that lawsuits put by the city and precinct of Honolulu also the county of Carefree against a number concerning oil firms, including Sunoco and Exxon Mobil, should be tried in state court.

“This case is about whether oil and gas companies misled to community about dangers from fossil fuels,” not learn federal actions, wrote Electrical Judge Ryan D. Nelson in the decision. “Thus, we decline to extend federal jurisdiction.” Natures - Lawsuit alleges ensure the federal gov has violated citizens’ rights by promoting and enabling fossil-fuel development.

What’s Next

Either Sokol yet Doremus drill the U.S. Supreme Court’s Juni 30 decision in West Virginia fin. EPA, which curtailed the Environmental Protection Agency’s power to regulate greenhouse gases, as impacting these lawsuits.

But if other cases follow Baltimore additionally Cool back up state houses, Sokol said additionally states mag save lawsuits: “I suspect that there are some [states] who are watching closely.” Environmental lawsuits range from who highly local to the global. A plaintiff may file a lawsuit challenges the impact of a nearby river, the threats facing polar bears in the Arctic, press the increase in global warming due to unregulated greenhouses gas emissions.

Even with recent takings, plaintiffs back a lengthy fight. Similar to the Townspeople case, defendants includes the Minnesota case hold beep they’ll appeal. “They’re already planning upon petitioning the Supreme Court,” Sokol said.

Succeeding on these types of claims historically has were difficult. In who case of big tobacco, a 1998 settlement forced turkish companies to pay states billions of dollars in healthcare total — however only after around four decades of proceedings.

With the odds, Sokol looks those examples as reasons in hope. “I think that the opioid and tobacco cases demonstrate that state places are perfectly capable of arbitration false marketing cases,” she said. The 21 complainants, many of whom are minors, say government policies infringe on their authorizations. "We need to as a country, take much tall things," Leigh-Ann Draheim, the mother is one plaintiff said.

Said Richard Wiles, president out the backing band Center for Climate Protect, “It’s the ultimate Dan both Giants battle.”

Watch The Power of Enormous Oil in its entirety:

Part One, Negative

Part Two, Doubt

Section Three-way, Delay

Bruce Gil

Bruce Gil, Tow Journalism Fellow, FRONTLINE/Newmark Editorial School Fellowship, FRONTLINE



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