Baltimore is Seeking Climate Change Damage Payments from the Oil & Gas Industry

by admin on March 10, 2020

Fifty years ago, the American Petroleum Institute had conclusive evidence

Maryland Climate Ruling a Setback for Oil and Gas Industry

From an Article by David Hasemyer, Inside Climate News, March 6, 2020

A lawsuit for damages related to climate change brought by the city of Baltimore can be heard in Maryland state courts, a federal appeals court ruled on Friday. The decision is a setback for the fossil fuel industry, which had argued that the case should be heard in federal court, where rulings in previous climate cases have favored the industry.

In a unanimous ruling, a three-judge panel of the Fourth U.S. Circuit of Appeals dismissed the industry’s argument that the lawsuit was more appropriate for federal court because the damage claims should be weighed against federal laws and regulations that permitted the industry to extract oil and gas, the primary cause of the greenhouse gas emissions that drive global warming.

Pending any further appeals, the ruling leaves the door open for the case to proceed in a Maryland court, where the city is relying on state laws covering a number of violations, including public nuisance, product liability and consumer protection.

The court’s decision Friday is the first federal appeals court to rule in a string of climate cases under appeal across the country over the question of federal or state jurisdiction. It affirmed an earlier ruling by a lower federal court that the case was best heard in state court.

The ruling is not binding on other pending appeals, but legal scholars say that other federal appeals courts will take notice of the findings.

Although the ruling blocks one avenue of defense for the industry, the judges did not foreclose other possible challenges related to the question of jurisdiction. There was no immediate indication from the industry of whether further legal options might be considered or what those might be.

Baltimore’s top legal officer, acting City Solicitor Dana Moore, hailed the ruling as a rebuke to the industry.

“We were confident in our case and are grateful that the Court of Appeals agreed,” Moore said in a prepared statement. “We look forward to having a jury hear the facts about the fossil fuel companies’ decades-long campaign of deception and their attempt to make Baltimore’s residents, workers, and businesses pay for all the climate damage they’ve knowingly caused.”

The foundation for the appeals court ruling was laid last year when lawyers representing the city argued before the appeals court that the foundation of the case rested on the promotion of a harmful product by the fossil fuel industry. That equated to violations of state product liability laws best decided by state courts, the city’s lawyers argued.

The essence of the fossil fuel companies’ argument was that much of the oil and gas was extracted from federal land under permits issued by the federal government so the allegations must be resolved under federal law.

Ann Carlson, an environmental law professor at the Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, part of the University of California, Los Angeles’ School of Law, said the ruling is significant because it steamrolls one of the primary roadblocks used by the industry in an attempt to block the city’s day in court.

“This ruling removes an obstacle to the plaintiffs moving forward in state courts and puts these cases much, much closer to a trial where the facts and the truth will emerge,” said Carlson, who has done limited pro bono work on the Baltimore case.

Carlson called the ruling “well-reasoned” and “solid,” so that other appellate courts considering similar climate cases could take notice. “There could be some influence,” she said. “The issues are much the same and this ruling could provide some guidance to the other courts.”

The Baltimore case, filed two years ago, seeks to hold 26 fossil fuel companies financially accountable for the threats posed by climate change. The lawsuit alleges that fossil fuel companies, including Exxon, Chevron and Phillips 66, knowingly sold dangerous products for decades and failed to take steps to reduce that harm.

Baltimore’s lawsuit claims that the 26 companies are responsible for approximately 15 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions in the five decades from 1965 to 2015. Among the consequences of that increase in atmospheric carbon have been extreme weather events and sea level rise, both particular threats to Baltimore.

“As a direct and proximate consequence of defendants’ wrongful conduct … flooding and storms will become more frequent and more severe, and average sea level will rise substantially along Maryland’s coast, including in Baltimore,” the city argued in its suit.

The Baltimore case joins more than a dozen lawsuits—including claims filed by the state of Rhode Island and cities and counties in California, Colorado, New York and Washington State—that are currently pending to hold fossil fuel companies financially accountable for their role in creating climate change and for deceiving the public about the impact of their business practices.

The industry is trying to steer the climate cases into the federal courts, where the U.S. Supreme Court could ultimately end up ruling on the issue.


See also: Former Exxon Scientists Tell Congress of Oil Giant’s Climate Research Before Exxon Turned to Denial | InsideClimate News, October 24, 2019

Exxon’s research warned of the risks of climate change from human-cause greenhouse gas emissions 40 years ago. Then came the ‘sea change’ at the energy company.


See also: Shell and Exxon’s secret 1980s climate change warnings | The Guardian, September 18, 2018

In the 1980s, oil companies like Exxon and Shell carried out internal assessments of the carbon dioxide released by fossil fuels, and forecast the planetary consequences of these emissions. In 1982, for example, Exxon predicted that by about 2060, CO2 levels would reach around 560 parts per million – double the preindustrial level – and that this would push the planet’s average temperatures up by about 2°C over then-current levels (and even more compared to pre-industrial levels).

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

admin March 10, 2020 at 9:58 pm

Honolulu Sues Petroleum Companies For Climate Change Damages to City

BY DAVID HASEMYER, Inside Climate News, March 10, 2020

At Mike Leary’s Island Demo’s equipment yard, more frequent tidal flooding from rising seas has inundated the property in recent years.

Honolulu city officials, lashing out at the fossil fuel industry in a climate change lawsuit filed Monday, accused oil producers of concealing the dangers that greenhouse gas emissions from petroleum products would create, while reaping billions in profits.

The lawsuit, against eight oil companies, says climate change already is having damaging effects on the city’s coastline, and lays out a litany of catastrophic public nuisances—including sea level rise, heat waves, flooding and drought caused by the burning of fossil fuels—that are costing the city billions, and putting its residents and property at risk.

“We are seeing in real time coastal erosion and the consequences,” Josh Stanbro, chief resilience officer and executive director for the City and County of Honolulu Office of Climate Change, Sustainability and Resiliency, told InsideClimate News. “It’s an existential threat for what the future looks like for islanders.”

The lawsuit puts it simply: The industry has known for decades that those impacts could be catastrophic, yet did nothing.

Fossil fuel companies have “promoted and profited from a massive increase in the extraction and consumption of oil, coal, and natural gas, which has in turn caused an enormous, foreseeable, and avoidable increase in global greenhouse gas pollution,” the suit states.

“Defendants had actual knowledge that their products were defective and dangerous and were and are causing and contributing to the nuisance complained of, and acted with conscious disregard for the probable dangerous consequences of their conduct’s and products’ foreseeable impact upon the rights of others, including the City and its residents,” according to the 119 page lawsuit filed in in the First Circuit Court of Hawaii.

The lawsuit seeks to hold fossil companies, including Exxon, Shell, Chevron and Phillips 66, accountable for the costs and damages caused by misleadingly promoting and selling products that their own scientists and experts warned could impose “severe” or even “catastrophic” consequences.

“This case is about accountability,” Stanbro said during a news conference announcing the lawsuit. “It’s about making sure corporations play by the rules; disclose known problems with their products,” he said. “And when they don’t do that, they are held accountable to cover the cost the rest of society is having to bear.”

See the rest of the article here:


EcoWatch September 12, 2020 at 11:59 am

Charleston, SC Becomes First City in U.S. South to Sue Big Oil for Climate Costs – EcoWatch

From an Article by Olivia Rosane, EcoWatch, September 11, 2030

The city of Charleston, South Carolina made history Wednesday when it became the first in the U.S. South to sue the fossil fuelindustry for damages caused by the climate crisis.

The city sued 24 oil and pipeline companies, including major players like ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP and Royal Dutch Shell, The Post and Courier reported. The lawsuit contends that the companies knew that their products were heating the global climate but denied the fact in public. It further seeks to charge them for the costs of protecting Charleston from increased floodingand extreme weather events.

“As this lawsuit shows, these companies have known for more than 50 years that their products were going to cause the worst flooding the world has seen since Noah built the Ark,” Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg said during a press conference announcing the suit, as Live 5 News reported. “And instead of warning us, they covered up the truth and turned our flooding problems into their profits. That was wrong, and this lawsuit is all about holding them accountable for that multi-decade campaign of deception.”

Charleston, a low-lying city built on a peninsula between three rivers, is especially vulnerable to sea level rise, according to The Associated Press. In the last 50 years, the city has gone from seeing around four flood days a year to almost 89, the suit contends. In addition, the city will feel the impacts of extreme weather events like heat waves and hurricanes. The suit was filed days before the third anniversary of Hurricane Irma, which inundated Charleston with a nearly 10-foot storm surge, the third highest in the city’s history.

Tecklenburg made his announcement in front of The Battery, where construction crews were working to lengthen an existing sea wall, The Post and Courier reported. The sea wall extension is the city’s first project to adapt to rising sea levels. Others include building more than 8,000 feet of new flood drainage tunnels and installing check valves to prevent tidal water from entering the city’s storm drain system, according to Live 5 News.

The city expects sea levels to rise two to three feet in the next 50 years and it predicts that adapting to these changes will cost $2 billion, according to The Post and Courier. However, the lawsuit is not asking for a particular amount from the companies, instead hoping a jury will decide what is fair.

Many of the companies named in the suit did not reply to requests for comments. Those that did said that lawsuits were not the right way to address the climate crisis.

“Legal proceedings like this waste millions of dollars of taxpayer money and do nothing to advance meaningful actions that reduce the risks of climate change,” ExxonMobil spokesperson Casey Norton told The Associated Press.

Charleston is now the 21st U.S. community to disagree and file a lawsuit against big oil.

With today’s filing, Big Oil is facing climate lawsuits on both coasts, in the Northeast, the Midwest, the South, the Rocky Mountains, and even Hawaii,” Center for Climate Integrity Executive Director Richard Wiles told The Post and Courier by email. “The public is ready to hold this corrupt industry accountable for causing and lying about climate change, and officials across the country are stepping up to take action.”

Charleston’s suit comes about a week after a similar lawsuit was filed by the city of Hoboken, New Jersey.

It was also followed one day later by another climate liability lawsuit from the state of Delaware Thursday.


Adam Liptak October 4, 2020 at 10:18 am

The UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT has agreed to hear an appeal from more than two dozen multinational energy companies that object to a state court lawsuit brought by Baltimore seeking to hold them accountable for their role in changing the earth’s climate. The companies want to move the suit to federal court.

The case, BP P.L.C. v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, No. 19-1189, is one of more than a dozen state and local governments around the nation have filed seeking compensation for what they said were injuries caused by the energy companies’ conduct.

In its suit, Baltimore said the companies’ “production, promotion and marketing of fossil fuel products, simultaneous concealment of the known hazards of those products and their championing of antiscience campaigns” harmed the city, which “is particularly vulnerable to sea-level rise and flooding.”
The battle, for now, is about whether the suit belongs in state court.

Judge Ellen L. Hollander of the Federal District Court in Baltimore rejected what she called the companies’ “laundry list” of reasons for trying to move the Baltimore case to federal court. Such rulings cannot ordinarily be appealed, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in Richmond, Va., ruled in March that no exception applied.
In the Supreme Court, the energy companies argued that the issues in the case require adjudication in federal court.

“Resolution of the question presented is particularly important in the context of the ongoing nationwide climate change litigation brought by state and local governments against energy companies,” they wrote. “The question is also of substantial legal and practical importance; indeed, the question is currently arising with acute frequency in climate change lawsuits similar to this one, where the arguments for federal jurisdiction are compelling.”

The companies may be suspicious that the plaintiffs will have a home-court advantage before local judges in state court. They may also hope that federal courts will rule that federal law displaces one of the plaintiffs’ central legal theories, that the companies can be held responsible under state law for creating a public nuisance.

Adam Liptak, New York Times, October 3, 2020



Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: