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Oakland and San Francisco are suing five oil companies for damage from sea level rise and other climate change impacts. Now the oil companies are asking federal Judge William Alsup to dismiss the suit. Come show your support for holding oil companies accountable when Judge Alsup hears arguments on this motion.
City of Oakland v. BP PLC et al, #3;17-CV;06011, is a public nuisance case brought by the City of Oakland against BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon and Shell, consolidated now with a companion lawsuit filed by the City and County of San Francisco. The issue is important enough that the states of California (Attorney General Xavier Becerra), New Jersey and Washington have filed a brief in support of the cities’ position.
The lawsuit is designed to force each defendant company (with room in the complaint to add ten more) to pay its share of the damage caused by sea level rise during the decades of the oil industry’s deliberate misinformation campaign about the climate change threat. The notion is similar to that which finally held cigarette companies liable for damages caused by their lies. The legal theory is that the oil companies have knowingly created a “public nuisance,” and they should have to pay for its harm. Scientists now believe they can prove the amount of damage created by each of these huge fossil fuel companies during its period of lying to the public.
This is one of ten climate damage public nuisance suits filed in the past year by cities and counties, including San Mateo County, Marin County, Richmond and Santa Cruz. These other Bay Area cases, along with one from Imperial Beach in SoCal, are being ordered back to state court by another federal judge, which is being appealed by the fossil fuel companies. They are on hold while that appeal is decided. But Cities of Oakland and San Francisco are going forward.
William Alsup, the federal judge assigned to the Oakland/SF case, has already insisted that the parties give him a tutorial on climate change, so he seems to be taking it seriously.
Now the oil companies have filed a Motion to Dismiss the case entirely. On Thursday, May 24, Judge Alsup will hear both sides argue that motion. If this case survives the motion to dismiss, it will be the first climate change damage lawsuit to do so; thus, this is a critical moment. Chances are good, because the scientific evidentiary basis for the amount of damage attributable to separate companies has gotten stronger.