San Francisco sues fossil fuel companies

San Francisco on Sept. 20 filed a lawsuit against five fossil fuel companies due to expected expenses the city will incur from global warming. The companies named in the suit are BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell—chosen because they are "the largest investor-owned fossil fuel corporations in the world as measured by their historic production of fossil fuels." The suit claims the companies knew of the effects of fossil fuels on global warming since the late 1970s or early '80s, but nonetheless "engaged in large-scale, sophisticated advertising and public relations campaigns to promote pervasive fossil fuel usage." The suit seeks an order that the defendants fund an abatement program for the building of seawalls to protect San Francisco from rising sea levels.

San Francisco claims that the city will experience temperature increases of 8.6°F, increase current "100-year flood" events to occur 92 times per year, and increase sea levels up to 66 inches by 2100. Upgrades to the sea wall are estimated to cost $500 million short-term, and $5 billion long term. It is also estimated that the city will have to spend $350 million to upgrade their sewer and storm water infrastructure.

From Jurist, Sept. 22. Used with permission.

Note: The city of Oakland filed a similar suit the same day. (The Hill) A similar suit filed by the Native Alaskan village of Kivalina, which actually faces relocation due to rising sea levels, was dismissed by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2012. 

  1. New York City files climate change lawsuit against oil companies

    New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Jan. 10 announced a lawsuit against BP, Chevron Corporation, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil Corporation and Royal Dutch Shell for their role in climate change. The suit asserts that New York City has suffered damages from these productions through inundation, erosion, and regular tidal flooding. There is also a claim that future harms are imminent, posing a threat to infrastructure and public health and safety of citizens. The city seeks to put the burden of costs onto the corporations for the implementation of new policies and measures to reduce fossil fuel production. (Jurist)

  2. SCOTUS refuses to hear Exxon appeal in climate change case

    The US Supreme Court on Jan. 7 declined to hear the appeal in the Exxon Mobil Corporation v. Healy case. This gives Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healy the right to proceed with her investigation and request records from Exxon on its prior knowledge of the relationship between fossil fuel consumption and climate change. 

    Eric Schneiderman, New York’s Attorney General, had also joined the suit. The company tried to block the records probe claiming that because it is a Texas based company, Massachusetts and New York had no jurisdiction to request records for investigations done in their respective states. In the district court's decision in April, the judge held that "Exxon was subject to personal jurisdiction in Massachusetts by virtue of its control over franchises operating Exxon-branded gas stations in the Commonwealth."

    The Supreme Court decision not to take on Exxon's case gives the attorneys general the green light to proceed with their probe and investigation to hold Exxon accountable for its contribution to climate change. (Jurist)

  3. Pennsylvania governor signs greenhouse gas executive order

    Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed an executive order Jan. 8 that places new goals and restrictions for the state regarding greenhouse gas emissions. When announcing the executive order, the governor stated: "In the absence of leadership from the federal government, states and cities are stepping up and doing their part to reduce emissions." By 2050, the state will reduce 2005 greenhouse gas emission levels by 80%. (Jurist)

  4. Exxon faces investor fraud case over global warming
    New York’s Attorney General has brought suit against ExxonMobil in Manhattan Supreme Court, charging that the company used two sets of books to hide the true cost of climate change regulations from investors. (Jurist, Reuters, Oct. 22)

  5. Exxon prevails in New York climate fraud case
    A Manhattan trial court ruled Dec. 10 that ExxonMobil did not mislead investors on climate change risks. Judge Barry Ostrager concluded that the New York State Office of the Attorney General failed to prove Exxon made false material disclosures to the public in violation of the Martin Act § 352 and Executive law§ 63(12). The court also stated that, “nothing in this opinion is intended to absolve ExxonMobil from responsibility for contributing to climate change through the emission of greenhouse gases in the production of its fossil fuel products.”

    In October the Attorney General of Massachusetts filed a similar lawsuit against Exxon for investor and consumer fraud. (Jurist)