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New York City sues oil companies for climate damages

10 Jan 2018 19:47 GMT
New York City sues oil companies for climate damages

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 has sold, and continues 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 City 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 declined to comment. BP did not respond for comment.

New York City's lawsuit mirrors other climate damage lawsuits 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 to divest the city's $189bn pension funds away from fossil fuel companies within five years.

The lawsuit also 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 not immediately respond for comment, but its president yesterday said the industry was a "very active participant" in finding solutions to climate change.

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