Published: Fri, January 12, 2018
Markets | By Rosalie Gross

New York City Is Suing Major Oil Companies Over Climate Change

New York City Is Suing Major Oil Companies Over Climate Change

In 2017, the California cities of San Francisco, Oakland, Santa Cruz, and Imperial Beach, as well as Santa Cruz county, Marin County, and San Mateo County attempted to sue oil majors over climate change damages, citing a theory called "public nuisance".

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo previously has said he planned to halt future fossil fuel investments in the state's public employee pension fund.

The New York City government is attempting to shift the costs of bracing the city for climate change onto the world's five largest publicly traded oil companies, which it claims "have done almost all they could to create this existential threat". Approximately $19 billion of those damages were in New York City alone, according to the New York City Office of Management and Budget. "I remember how much fear and confusion there was", said Blasio. More than half of the greenhouse gas pollution from fossil fuels has occurred since 1988. "Those lawsuits were crucial to changing the public perception of tobacco and the industry behind it, and that change helped drive new policy", de Blasio said.

That said, there is something very discomfiting about a mayor who talks about his dedication to improving the lot of the poor and needy among us but who turns a deaf ear to them when they happen to reside in housing under his control. The city plans to start examining ways to do so. In the filing, ExxonMobil said it is considering filing its own lawsuit. The city is seeking to mitigate the financial outlay of environmental protection initiatives, such as coastal defences, sewer networks, as well as health campaigns. The city is already putting in place a $20 billion resiliency program to protect against hotter temperatures, more intense storms and rising sea levels.

The companies are BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell.

The city alleges the fossil fuel industry was aware for decades that burning fuel was impacting climate change.

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The city seeks damages for the impacts of climate change on the city. Not that there is anything wrong with the notion of fairness as a goal, but as The New York Times noted in an editorial on that inaugural speech, "h$3 e would benefit...from a dash of humility by remembering that, given the abysmal turnout on Election Day, he won support from only about 16 percent of the city' registered voters". "To confront the climate crisis, we must hold corporate polluters accountable in the streets, in the boardrooms, and in the courts". "Because right now we have it upside down and backwards".

"This is one of a handful of the most important moments in the 30-year fight against climate change", said Bill McKibben, the activist and Nation contributor, who joined de Blasio in addressing the press conference.

Greenpeace USA's Executive Director Annie Leonard also commented: "New York City's impressive leadership makes me hopeful for the future, and the possibilities we have for addressing climate change from the city and state level".

De Blasio's announcement raised concerns from both the energy industry and manufactures.

Even the head of the oil and gas industry's largest lobbying group publicly says that climate change is real and he wants to discuss solutions. "This lawsuit is factually and legally meritless, and will do nothing to address the serious issue of climate change", Chevron spokesman Braden Reddall told Bloomberg. The industry group's NY executive director, Karen Moreau, accused him of hurting pension holders in "a disgraceful way to score cheap political points".

The other three companies didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

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