The multi-billion dollar climate damage lawsuit against BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Shell is back on, as SF, Oakland, and other cities win their federal appeal.
The most frequently discussed U.S. federal court judge on this particular blog is Judge William Alsup, who’s presided over high-profile cases covering everything from the PG&E bankruptcy to the Google-Uber self-driving car dispute to the Berkeley BART Station homeless encampment suit. One of his high-profile cases you haven’t heard about in awhile is the 2018 climate change lawsuit that San Francisco and Oakland brought against the big five Big Oil companies Chevron, BP, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Shell, arguing that cities and communities who had to protect their seawalls and invest in other climate damage costs were essentially subsidizing the ability of oil companies to do generational damage to the planet.
Alsup tossed that case out of federal court in June of that year, along with a similar case brought by San Mateo, Marin and Santa Cruz Counties, plus cities like Richmond, Santa Cruz, and others in California, saying that climate change was too broad to blame only five companies. But KPIX brought the news Wednesday that the cities and counties won their appeals, and the suits will proceed in a lower court.
These are two separate lawsuits, but both are covered by the same appeal ruling. The San Francisco and Oakland suits name those big five oil companies, the other broader lawsuit with many cities and counties have about 30 energy companies named as defendants. Both will now go back to the original state superior courts in which they originated, after the energy companies got them appealed to the federal level.
“We’re pleased that we can proceed with this case to protect our residents, workers and businesses from the costs and damage these fossil fuel companies knowingly imposed on our communities,” San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said in an email to The Chronicle. “It is time for these companies to pay their fair share.”
“We’re pleased that we can proceed with this case to protect our residents, workers and businesses from the costs and damage these fossil fuel companies knowingly imposed on our communities,” San Francisco city attorney Dennis Herrera said in a statement to the Chronicle. “It is time for these companies to pay their fair share.”
Unsurprisingly, a Chevron spokesperson was dismissive of the ruling. “Chevron believes the cases belong in federal court. They present substantial issues of national law and policy which makes them inappropriate for state law,” company spokesprson Sean Comey told KPIX. “Whichever forum the cases are ultimately determined, these factually and legally unsupported claims do nothing to sensibly address the significant national economic, legal and policy issues presented by climate change.”
It’s not specified what damages the cities are seeking, but the Chron reports SF officials estimate the global warming puts “$10 billion of public property and as much as $39 billion of private land in the city at risk.”
Officials equate this with the Big Tobacco lawsuits of the 1990s, saying these companies know their product is doing untold damage to public health and the environment, yet continue selling the product anyway. If successful, the climate change lawsuits could open the floodgates to other litigation nationally or even worldwide, and hopefully before we’re all flooded underwater.
Image: @brondmo via Twitter