By Karen Savage
As tens of thousands of Californians fled their homes last week to escape wildfires, an ongoing disaster exacerbated by climate change, several municipalities urged the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to allow a lawsuit aimed at holding fossil fuel companies accountable for their role in climate change to proceed.
The cities of Imperial Beach, Richmond, and Santa Cruz, along with the counties of Marin, San Mateo, and Santa Cruz are suing Chevron, Exxon, Shell, Citgo, ConocoPhillips, and dozens of other fossil fuel companies, alleging they have known for decades that their products cause climate change. The complaints say that instead of warning the public about the dangers, the companies engaged in a public relations campaign to protect their profits.
The municipalities allege violations of several state laws, including public nuisance laws, and are seeking compensation for climate change-related damages. They have so far succeeded in convincing the appeals court that the cases should be heard in state court, where they were filed, instead of in federal court, where the companies believe they will have a better chance of beating them. Earlier this month, the companies asked the Ninth Circuit to stay its May decision to return the cases to state court.
California’s current wildfires have helped to drive home the urgency of the communities’ cases. The state’s wildfire season has grown longer and more intense in recent years as the atmosphere warms, the high temperatures drying groundcover and creating ample fuel for the fires.[Read more…]