By Karen Savage
Among the various rolling disasters that filled 2020, climate change continued to loom large for communities facing its rapidly rising costs. More of them decided to file suit against the fossil fuel industry, and all of them await a potentially crucial decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.
That looming confrontation—which could decide the critical issue of whether municipalities will face these companies in state or federal court— hasn’t stopped the cases, nor has it stopped the suits from evolving.
Municipalities continued to file suits based on nuisance claims, but for the first time this year they were joined by several state attorneys general, who filed suits alleging fraud, deceit and violations of consumer protection laws.
“The really fundamental truth is that people don’t like to be lied to,” said Carroll Muffett, president of the Center for International Environmental Law. “The consumer protection cases really draw that out in really fundamental ways and the evidence is extremely compelling.”
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who filed suit in June, became the first to include the American Petroleum Institute (API) when he accused the industry’s most powerful trade association—along with Exxon and three Koch Industries entities—of consumer fraud and other violations for their decades-long deception about their role in climate change.
Hoboken and Delaware also included the API, alleging that like the companies, the lobbying group knew for decades that their products cause climate change, but deliberately deceived the public about those harms.
That’s a significant shift, Muffett said.[Read more…]