By Karen Savage
Hawaii’s Maui County, which covers four islands and has nearly 300 miles of coastline, on Monday became the latest in a wave of municipalities that have sued fossil fuel companies to hold them accountable for their role in climate change.
In the suit, filed Monday in state court, Maui County alleges that Exxon, Shell, Chevron, BP and more than a dozen other companies have known for decades that their products pose a grave risk to the climate. The suit says that instead of warning the public, the companies engaged in a coordinated campaign to “conceal and deny their own knowledge of those threats, discredit the growing body of publicly available scientific evidence, and persistently create doubt in the minds of customers, consumers, regulators, the media, journalists, teachers, and the public about the reality and consequences of the impacts of their fossil fuel pollution.”
The companies’ actions have “contributed substantially to the buildup of CO2 in the atmosphere that drives global warming and its physical, environmental, and socioeconomic consequences, including those affecting the County,” Moana M. Lutey, corporation counsel for Maui County wrote in the complaint.
The suit joins another already filed in Hawaii by the city and county of Honolulu and dozens more already filed across the country, which make similar claims against a similar group of companies. Most are locked in a battle over whether they will be heard in state or federal courts. The suits have overwhelmingly been filed in state courts but the industry has fought to move them to federal court, where they believe they have a better chance of getting them dismissed. The U.S. Supreme Court last week agreed to weigh in on a jurisdictional-related technicality in a suit filed by Baltimore.
Maui County joined the trend because it is already experiencing climate impacts, including chronic drought, more intense heat waves, high tide flooding, wildfires and worsening coastal erosion, according to County Mayor Michael Victorino, who announced last year that he intended to file the suit.[Read more…]