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King county in Washington state files suit against climate polluters

Washington, DC —

Yesterday, King County in Washington State became the latest locality in the U.S. to file suit against oil and gas companies like BP, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch, and ConocoPhillips for knowingly selling a product that would cause “catastrophic” impacts as a result of climate change.

King County aims to recover costs associated with planning for and adapting to climate impacts by establishing an abatement fund that would help the county finance climate adaptation costs related to stormwater management, salmon recovery, public health, and other damages.

Below you’ll find a statement from Richard Wiles, Executive Director of the Center for Climate Integrity, in response to the news:

“This is a moment of reckoning for the oil and gas industry.

“Taxpayers are tired of paying for climate damages that the oil industry knowingly caused. And just like lawsuits against tobacco, lead, and asbestos manufacturers, they are taking action to recover costs.

Internal documents from Shell make clear that they understood their potential liability for climate damages at least 30 years ago.

“The fossil fuel industry is not above the law: oil and gas is a product just like lead, asbestos, and tobacco, where producers can be held liable for damages.

Info on current climate impact litigation in the United States:

Colorado

  • April 2018: The city of Boulder, Boulder County, and San Miguel County sues ExxonMobil and Suncor for climate impacts that have exacerbated wildfires, drought, floods, and other impacts. (Legal filing can be found here).

California

  • January 2018: Richmond, CA sues 29 oil and gas companies for climate impacts, including sea level rise (More info can be found here).
  • December 2017: Santa Cruz sues 29 oil and gas companies for climate impacts, including drought and wildfires (Legal filing can be found here).
  • September 2017: San Francisco & Oakland sue five big oil companies over threat of climate change (Legal filings can be found here).
  • July 2017: Imperial Beach and San Mateo and Marin Counties sue oil companies over threat rising sea level poses to their communities. (Legal filings can be found here).

New York City

  • January 2018: New York City sues five oil and gas companies for climate damages (More info can be found here).

Washington State

  • May 2018: King County sued 5 oil and gas companies for climate impacts, seeking to create an abatement fund to help pay for adaptation efforts related to stormwater management, salmon recovery, public health, among other impacts (Legal filing can be found here).

The Center for Climate Integrity, a project of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development, launched in 2017. CCI works with partners in communities across the country to educate the public and policymakers about the massive costs of coping with the damage attributable to global warming, and supports efforts to make climate polluters to pay their fair share.