Hagens Berman represented the cities of San Francisco and Oakland, Calif. in two lawsuits filed against BP, Chevron Corp., Exxon Mobil Corp., Royal Dutch Shell PLC and ConocoPhillips alleging that the Big Oil giants are responsible for the cities’ costs of protecting themselves from global warming-induced sea level rise, including expenses to construct seawalls to protect the two cities’ more than 5 million residents.
Attorneys seek an order requiring defendants to abate the global warming-induced sea level rise by funding an abatement program to build sea walls and other infrastructure. Attorneys for the cities say this abatement fund will be in the billions.
The two complaints, filed Sept. 19, 2017, in California Superior Court in San Francisco and Alameda counties name as defendant five fossil fuel corporations that have produced more fossil fuels than any other investor-owned companies in the world and seeks to hold them accountable for past, ongoing and future-planned development of fossil fuels, which is directly impacting the cities’ risk of rising sea levels, the suit says. “This case is, fundamentally, about shifting the costs of abating sea level rise harm – one of global warming’s gravest harms – back onto the companies,” the suit reads.
The suits state that the defendants knowingly continue their environmentally destructive behavior, seeking to shroud it with a sophisticated campaign to sway public opinion on fossil fuel use and that defendants have misleadingly downplayed the risks of global warming with a campaign of denial that was intended to promote their fossil fuels products. "This egregious state of affairs is no accident. Rather, it is an unlawful public nuisance of the first order.”
The suits detail a history of flagrant disregard from Big Oil as the impacts of fossil fuel usage on the environment became more and more clear and that the management of these corporations were warned by their own scientists and trade association scientists in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The suits state that the defendants knew that “massive fossil fuel usage would cause dangerous global warming.”
These actions carry on into the present, as the risk of rising sea levels intensifies, especially for coastal cities. “Defendants took these stark warnings and proceeded to double-down on fossil fuels,” the complaint states. “Even at this time, with the global warming danger level at a critical phase, defendants continue to engage in massive fossil fuel production and execute long-term business plans to continue and even expand their fossil fuel production for decades into the future.”