California communities’ lawsuit against 37 fossil fuel companies (re climate change compensation)

Flooding_California_credit-Dave-GatleyOn 17 July 2017, three local governments in California (San Mateo County, Marin County, and the City of Imperial Beach) filed a lawsuit against 37 fossil fuel companies including BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Peabody Energy, Shell and Statoil.

They allege that the companies knew about the impacts of their greenhouse gas emissions on climate change and failed to act. They are seeking compensation for the current and future costs of adapting to the consequences of climate change, such as sea level rises.

According to Shell, climate change should be addressed through sound government policy and cultural change not by the courts. Statoil pointed out that previous lawsuits of this type had been dismissed for being a political, not a judicial, issue.

On 16 March 2018, a US District Court ruled that California state courts were the appropriate setting for the climate lawsuits.  The oil and gas companies targeted by the lawsuits had argued that the matter should be transfered to federal courts.  The companies have six weeks to appeal.

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1 June 2020

USA: Courts rule climate change suits against oil companies can proceed in state courts

Author: Brian Melley, Claims Journal

"Big Oil Loses Appeal, Climate Suits Go to California Courts," 28 May 2020

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals…ruled state courts are the proper forum for lawsuits alleging producers promoted petroleum as environmentally responsible when they knew it was contributing to drought, wildfires, and sea level rise associated with global warming. The lawsuits claim Chevron, Exxon Mobil, ConocoPhillips, BP, Royal Dutch Shell and other companies created a public nuisance and should pay for damage from climate change.

…San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said…”We will continue to hold these companies accountable for their decades-long campaign of public deception about climate change and its consequences.”

...An appeals court in Virginia ruled that a similar case brought by Baltimore belonged in Maryland courts and lower federal courts in other cities have issued similar decisions.

...Chevron…said the cases involve issues of national law and policy and do not belong in state courts. “In whichever forum the cases are ultimately determined, these factually and legally unsupported claims do nothing to sensibly address the significant national economic, legal and policy issues presented by climate change,” said Sean Comey, a Chevron spokesman.

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22 March 2018

USA: Judge rules state courts are appropriate for hearing California communities' climate lawsuits against fossil fuel companies

Author: David Hasemyer, Inside Climate News (USA)

"Climate Legal Paradox: Judges Issue Dueling Rulings for Cities Suing Fossil Fuel Companies", 20 Mar 2018

Five cities and counties in California that are suing fossil fuel companies for damages triggered by climate change are now at the center of a legal paradox...The judicial collision course was set ...when a federal judge in San Francisco ruled that climate change lawsuits...were best adjudicated in California state courts...[A]nother federal court judge ruled that a similar climate case, brought by the cities of San Francisco and Oakland, should be tried in federal court...Both lawsuits are anchored in California public nuisance law...Hearing the cases in state court gives the cities and counties an edge because California has a stronger public nuisance law than the federal court system, legal experts say...U.S. District Court Judge Vincent Chhabria decided California state courts were the appropriate setting for the climate lawsuits brought by San Mateo and Marin counties...and the City of Imperial Beach...The oil and gas companies maintained the lawsuits raised issues more closely related to federal laws than state laws...But Chhabria was not moved by those arguments...Chhabria stayed his order for six weeks to give the oil and gas companies time to file an appeal...

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Author: Sophie Chapelle, Basta! (France)

« Ouragans, inondations : des multinationales poursuivies en justice », 13 septembre 2017

... Alors que ces catastrophes sèment la dévastation sur leur passage, une nouvelle étude publiée par l'ONG américaine Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), pointe les 90 principales entreprises productrices de pétrole, gaz, charbon et ciment. Elles sont à l'origine de 57 % de la hausse de la concentration atmosphérique en CO2...

Les plaintes pourraient se multiplier à l'encontre de ces entreprises. Aux États-Unis, deux comtés et une ville californienne...ont déposé plainte en juillet 2017 contre 37 entreprises pétrolières, gazières ou de charbon... Enjeu : obtenir des compensations relatives aux coûts actuels et futurs d'adaptation à la montée du niveau de la mer liée au changement climatique...En 2008, Kivalina, un petit village d'Alaska de 400 habitants, avait intenté un procès contre des compagnies pétrolières, dont BP et Chevron, demandant jusqu'à 400 millions de dollars pour relocaliser leur village face à la hausse du niveau de la mer. Leur dossier avait été rejeté au motif que c'était une question non pas juridique mais politique...

[Fait aussi référence à ExxonMobil, National Iranian Oil Company, Pemex, Shell, Sonatrach, Statoil, Total]

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Author: Ludovic Dupin, Novethic (France) (copyright:

« Réchauffement climatique : des villes californiennes portent plainte contre 37 compagnies pétrolières », 22 août 2017

Plusieurs agglomérations côtières de Californie refusent de payer pour les dégâts à venir causés par la remontée des eaux. Aussi, trois d’entre elles portent plainte contre 37 compagnies pétrolières. Elles les accusent d'avoir eu connaissance des risques de réchauffement climatique liés à leur activité sans avoir pour autant modifier leur modèle économique. Une initiative qui pourrait faire florès dans les années à venir...[Lire la suite :] [Fait référence à ExxonMobil]

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11 August 2017

USA: California lawsuits against 37 fossil fuel companies may change landscape of climate change litigation, say lawyers

Author: Nicholas M. Berg, David Nordsieck & Michael R. Littenberg, Ropes & Gray LLP, on Lexology (USA)

“Spate of Suits Brought by California Communities for Sea Level Rise May Change Landscape of Climate Change Litigation”, 8 Aug 2017

A recent trio of cases filed in California state court seek to hold [37] major fossil fuel companies liable for the effects of sea level rise they allege to be caused by climate change…

A spokesperson for one of the defendants has been quoted as saying in response to the lawsuits that “climate change is a complex societal challenge” that “should be addressed through sound government policy and cultural change…not by the courts.” A spokesperson for Norwegian oil & gas company Statoil, also a named defendant, agreed, stating: “previous cases have been dismissed” because climate change “is a political, not judicial, issue.”…

…It is too early to say how trends and decisions abroad may impact climate change litigation brought here in the U.S. against private companies. But the recent trio of California lawsuits may prove to be bellwethers of whether courts in the U.S. have become more receptive to climate change litigation. Even if the claims are not ultimately successful, the theories of liability that these California communities have asserted—some of which are novel in this context—may reshape the landscape of corporate social responsibility litigation in the years to come as society settles on the appropriate role of the courts in responding to climate change.

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26 July 2017

Exxon, Shell and other carbon producers sued for sea level rises in California

Author: Laura Paddison, Guardian (UK)

Three Californian communities have launched legal action against some of the world’s biggest oil, gas and coal companies, seeking compensation for the current and future costs of adapting to sea level rises linked to climate change.

San Mateo and Marin Counties, coastal communities in northern California, and Imperial Beach, a city in San Diego County, have filed complaints against 37 “carbon majors”, including Shell, Chevron, Statoil, Exxon and Total.

They claim greenhouse gas emissions from the fossil fuel companies’ activities over the last 50 years have locked in substantial sea level rises, which will cause billions of dollars’ worth of damage to properties and businesses, as well as endangering lives…

A spokeswoman for Shell said “we believe climate change is a complex societal challenge that should be addressed through sound government policy and cultural change to drive low-carbon choices for businesses and consumers, not by the courts.” A spokesman for Statoil said this lawsuit was not the first against the industry and that “previous cases have been dismissed as [providing energy while meeting climate commitments] is a political, not a judicial, issue”…

“This kind of litigation is a vital tool in the spreading effort to force oil companies to change their business models,” says Jeremy Leggett, founder of solar energy company Solarcentury…[Also refers to BP]

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18 July 2017

Local Governements in California File Common Law Claims Against Largest Fossil Fuel Companies

Author: Michael Burger, on Sabin Center for Climate Change Law Blog

Yesterday, three local governments in California (San Mateo County, Marin County and the City of Imperial Beach) filed potentially groundbreaking climate change lawsuits in California state courts...

Each of the complaints presents the same simple, compelling storyline: These fossil fuel companies knew. They knew that climate change was happening, that fossil fuel production and use was causing it, and that continued fossil fuel production and use would only make it worse. They knew this, but they hid it...Ultimately, their actions caused sea levels to rise, and thereby caused harm, are continuing to cause harm, and are contributing to future harm to the plaintiff governments and their residents.

The named defendants include Chevron, ExxonMobil, BP, Shell, Citgo, ConocoPhillips, Phillips 66, Peabody Energy, Total, Eni, Arch Coal, Rio Tinto, Statoil, Anadarko, Occidental, Repsol, Marathon, Hess, Devon, Encana, Apache, and unspecified “Company Does.”...

Without detracting from the many other legal issues likely to arise in the lawsuits, here are three that come immediately to mind...


Political Question...


...[T]hese cases represent a new pressure point on the fossil fuel industry, and a new spotlight on that industry’s engagement with climate law and policy...

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17 July 2017

San Mateo County, Marin County and City of Imperial Beach full complaints

Author: Sher Edling LLP

[San Mateo County, Marin County and City of Imperial Beach full complaints]

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