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Chicago sues fossil fuel companies for role in climate crisis – The Guardian

Environmental activists march during the Global Climate Strike in downtown Chicago, Illinois, on 15 September 2023. Photograph: Kamil Krzaczyński/AFP
Lawsuit targets BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, Phillips 66 and Shell, alleging that they intentionally misled public. Environmental activists march during the Global Climate Strike in downtown Chicago, Illinois, on 15 September 2023. Photograph: Kamil Krzaczyński/AFP

Dharna Noor, The Guardian

EnergiesNet.com 27 2024

Chicago on Tuesday joined the growinglist of US cities and states suing fossil fuel companies for allegedly deceiving the public about the climate crisis.

“There is no justice without accountability,” said the city’s mayor, Brandon Johnson, in an emailed statement.

The lawsuit targets major oil companies BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Phillips 66 and Shell, alleging they intentionally misled the public about the impact of their products despite longstanding knowledge of the climate dangers of oil and gas

The suit also names the nation’s largest oil and gas lobbying group, the American Petroleum Institute, as a defendant for allegedly working with oil companies to sow doubt about the climate crisis, and specifically for creating front groups to promote climate disinformation.

Chicago is additionally accusing the defendants of contributing to climate devastation throughout the city, including shoreline erosion, susceptibility to flooding, and dangerously hot summer temperatures. It specifically cites the more than 700 deaths in the city during an oppressive four-day heatwave in the summer of 1995.

“From the unprecedented poor air quality that we experienced last summer to the basement floodings that our residents on the West Side experienced, the consequences of this crisis are severe, as are the costs of surviving them,” said Johnson.

Preparing for these increasingly extreme climate events will force the city of Chicago to build new infrastructure and fix damage that has occurred. The city has committed to spend almost $200m to protect the city’s most vulnerable areas from the results of climate change, the challenge says.

Since 2017, eight states, three dozen municipalities, and the District of Columbia have sued big oil for allegedly hiding the dangers of their products from consumers and investors.

Chicago is one of the largest individual municipalities to bring such a suit so far, second only to New York City, which sued ExxonMobil, Shell, BP and the American Petroleum Institute in 2021.

“Big oil has lied to the American people for decades about the catastrophic climate risks of their products, and now Chicago and communities across the country are rightfully insisting they pay for the damage they’ve caused,” said Richard Wiles, president of the Center for Climate Integrity, a non-profit that supports the litigation.

“With Chicago, the nation’s third largest city, joining the fray, there is no doubt that we are witnessing a historic wave of lawsuits that could finally hold big oil accountable for the climate crisis they knowingly caused.”

The Chicago lawsuit was filed by the San Francisco law firm Sher Edling, which has brought 20 other climate deception lawsuits, and the local firm DiCello Levitt. In total, the complaint includes 10 counts of fraud, nuisance, conspiracy and other violations. The city is seeking an unspecified monetary compensation for climate damage, and to force the defendants to stop their campaign of “deception”.

In a statement to the Guardian, the American Petroleum Institute senior vice-president and general counsel, Ryan Meyers, said the industry provided “affordable, reliable” energy and has cut its emissions. He described the wave of lawsuits against big oil as “meritless, politicized lawsuits against a foundational American industry”, and a “waste of taxpayer resources”.

“Climate policy is for Congress to debate and decide, not a patchwork of city halls and courts,” he added.

A Shell spokesperson said the company was working to cut its emissions, and similarly added: “We do not believe the courtroom is the right venue to address climate change, but that smart policy from government and action from all sectors is the appropriate way to reach solutions and drive progress.”

A spokesperson for Phillips 66 also said “efforts around energy and climate solutions are best addressed outside the courtroom”.

Dennis Nuss, a spokesperson for ConocoPhillips, told the Guardian they would not comment on active litigation. BP, Chevron and ExxonMobil did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

But the Chicago alderman Matt Martin said the challenge could bring about accountability. “Both the facts, and the law, are on our side,” he said.

theguardian.com 02 21 2024

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