American Oil and Gas Reporter - February 2018 - 97

Climate Change Lawsuits Proliferating
Attempts by local governments to
force oil companies to pay for the purported damages of climate change spread
from the West Coast to the East in January
and possibly to the country's interior.
Meanwhile, one of the oil companies
charged began to fight back in a Texas
courtroom, and legal experts opined
that the climate lawsuits could face an
uphill climb.
In September, the cities of San Francisco
and Oakland, Ca., sued Chevron Corp.,
ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch
Shell and British Petroleum for damages
they claimed they could suffer from rising
sea levels (AOGR, October 2017, pg. 28).
A similar lawsuit was filed by San Mateo
County, published reports say.
In December, both the city of Santa
Cruz, Ca., and Santa Cruz County reportedly filed lawsuits in the California
Superior Court for Santa Cruz County
that expanded the list of defendants to
include downstream operations and independent producers. The complaint filed
by Santa Cruz County, dated Dec. 20,
names Shell Oil Products, Phillips 66
and Occidental Chemical Corp. as well
as Anadarko Petroleum, Hess Corp.,
Devon Energy and Apache Corp.
On Jan. 22, Richmond, Ca., announced
it was suing the same 29 companies named
in the Santa Cruz lawsuits. A statement
from Mayor Tom Butt says the lawsuit
Richmond filed in California Superior
Court for Contra Costa County "seeks to
hold accountable 29 oil, gas and coal
companies for damages associated with
both sea level rise and changes to the hydrologic cycle caused by greenhouse gas
pollution from the companies' products."
On the East Coast, Mayor Bill de
Blasio announced on Jan. 10 that New
York City was suing the same five companies named in San Francisco's and
Oakland's lawsuits for "damages to pay
for harm (from climate change) that we
already have seen and damages that are
necessary to address harm we expect to
happen over the course of this century."
The news release from de Blasio and
New York Comptroller Scott Stringer
also announced they were submitting a
joint resolution to the city's pension fund
trustees to begin analyzing ways to divest
the approximately $5 billion in fossil
fuel company securities owned by New
York's five pension funds.
About a week later, reports surfaced on
a climate news website that Boulder, Co.,
also was on the verge of suing oil companies
for climate-associated damages.

Climate Lawsuits
"We are bringing the fight against climate change straight to the fossil fuel
companies that knew about its effects
and intentionally misled the public to
protect their profits," Mayor de Blasio
declared in announcing New York City's
actions. "As climate change continues to
worsen, it's up to the fossil fuel companies
whose greed put us in this position to
shoulder the cost of making New York
safer and more resilient."
The mayor's statement points out that
the city's lawsuit "seeks to recover the billions needed to fund climate change resiliency measures the city needs to implement to protect the city, its property and
its residents. This includes physical infrastructure (such as) coastal protections, upgraded water and sewer infrastructure, and
heat mitigation, but also health campaigns."
The release says New York is executing
a $20 billion "resiliency program."
The first step in the divestment initiative,
the release continues, is for New York's
Office of the City Comptroller's Bureau
of Asset Management to commission an
analysis of the proposed divestment and
advise the trustees as to the anticipated
impact on the risk and return characteristics
of the portfolio. The trustees also are to
seek legal opinion as to whether divesting
fossil fuel securities is consistent with the
trustees' fiduciary duties to beneficiaries.
In Colorado, meanwhile, climateliabilitynews.org reports Boulder "is poised to
become the next municipality to file suit
against the fossil fuel industry for damages
caused by climate change." The story says
city officials hope to persuade several
other Colorado communities to join them
in suing a yet-to-be-determined number
of companies that operate in the state.
"The basis is that local governments
are expending real money to manage the
harms and the consequences of certain
companies' actions," the article quotes
Jonathan Koehn, Boulder's regional sustainability coordinator. "We only have to
look outside our windows to see the
health of our forests, forest fires on the
horizon (and) floods on a regular basis."
Climateliabilitynews.org says the city
is partnering with a pro bono law firm
from Washington, and will seek compensation for damages that have occurred
already and to pay for projects needed to
adapt to future climate impacts.
A separate published report notes that
the city of New York has employed the
same attorney who filed Oakland's and
San Francisco's lawsuits last year.

Fighting Back
ExxonMobil began fighting back
against the West Coast lawsuits, according
to published reports, on Jan. 8 when it
asked the Tarrant County District Court
in Fort Worth to allow it to depose several
California officials. According to reports,
the oil company believes it can establish
that while the climate lawsuits against it
allege imminent, near-certain harm, those
same municipalities failed to disclose
any such risks to investors.
Quoting from ExxonMobil's court filing, the reports say that, for example,
Oakland's lawsuit claims sea levels may
rise 66 inches by 2100 and San Mateo
County contends it faces a 93 percent
chance of experiencing a devastating
flood within the next three decades.
Yet in several municipal bond offerings,
the reports say, which netted those local
governments $8 billion during the last
27 years, officials told investors they
were unable to predict sea levels or other
climate impacts.
"The stark and irreconcilable conflict
between what these municipal governments alleged in their respective complaints
and what they disclosed to investors in
their bond offerings indicates the allegations . . . are not honestly held and were
not made in good faith," the reports cite
ExxonMobil's court documents.
The reports indicate ExxonMobil believes its depositions may provide evidence
to support claims of abuse of process,
civil conspiracy and violations of its constitutional rights it could bring against
California officials.
ExxonMobil also alleges the lawsuits
are part of a conspiracy among liberal
politicians "to coerce ExxonMobil and
others in the Texas energy sector to adopt
policies aligned with those favored by
local politicians."
Reports say ExxonMobil references a
"playbook" that it says links the current
lawsuits with an investigation initiated
by the attorneys general in New York
and Massachusetts (see "State AGs, Activists Collude to Investigate Climate Opponents," AOGR, May 2016).
"A collection of special interests and
opportunistic politicians are abusing law
enforcement authority and legal processes
to impose their viewpoint out of frustration
in New York, Massachusetts and California
with voters in other parts of the country
and with the federal government for
failing to adopt their preferred politics
on climate change," reports say ExxonMobil's court filing charges.
FEBRUARY 2018 97


http://www.climateliabilitynews.org http://www.climateliabilitynews.org http://www.Climateliabilitynews.org

American Oil and Gas Reporter - February 2018

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of American Oil and Gas Reporter - February 2018

Contents
American Oil and Gas Reporter - February 2018 - 1
American Oil and Gas Reporter - February 2018 - 1
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American Oil and Gas Reporter - February 2018 - Contents
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