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New York City sues oil companies over climate: Update

10 Jan 2018, 9.25 pm GMT

New York City sues oil companies over climate: Update

Updates with changes throughout

Washington, 10 January (Argus) — New York City today sued the five largest investor-owned oil and gas companies in hopes of recovering billions of dollars the city is spending to protect against rising seas and other effects from climate change.

The lawsuit says Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, BP and Shell have known for years that producing and selling fossil fuels would exacerbate damage from climate change. But it says the companies have sold, and continue to sell, "massive quantities of fossil fuels" that are causing billions in dollars of climate change damage to the city.

"We are bringing the fight to climate change straight to the fossil fuel companies that knew about its effects and intentionally misled the public to protect their profits," New York mayor Bill de Blasio said.

Shell said it believes climate change is a "complex societal challenge" that should be addressed by government policy and cultural change, "not by the courts." Chevron said the lawsuit was "factually and legally meritless." ExxonMobil said it welcomes good faith attempts to address climate change but lawsuits "simply do not do that."

ConocoPhillips and BP declined to comment.

The lawsuit mirrors other climate damage suits that San Francisco and other California cities filed last year against oil and gas companies. New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman is also investigating whether ExxonMobil misled investors about the risks of climate change. Litigation offers one way for cities and states to push for action on climate change, something they say President Donald Trump is failing to address.

Today's lawsuit argues the five oil companies and their trade groups promoted fossil-fuel use despite knowing the hazards, conduct it says has been a "substantial factor" in the city's damage from flooding, more extreme weather and temperature increases linked to climate change. The city is seeking to recover some of the $20bn it is investing in climate resiliency programs, in addition to future damages.

De Blasio today also announced a goal of divesting fossil fuel holdings from the city's $189bn pension funds within five years.

The lawsuit alleges that industry trade group the American Petroleum Institute (API) played a key role in organizing campaigns to downplay the risks of climate change. API did to respond to those allegations but said the mayor risked hurting government workers' pension funds by divesting oil and gas holdings.

API president Jack Gerard yesterday said the industry is a "very active participant" in the effort to combat climate change.

"We need to get over the conversation about who believes and does not believe and need to focus on solutions," Gerard said.

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