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Article

5 Dec 2022

Author:
Kenny Stancil, Common Dreams

Puerto Rico: Towns launch suit in U.S. alleging major oil companies colluded in their messaging on climate change

"Puerto Rican Towns File RICO Suit Accusing Big Oil of Colluding on Climate Denial", 29 Nov 2022

A group of 16 Puerto Rican municipalities has sued Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell, and other fossil fuel giants for alleged violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.

The lawsuit, filed last week in federal court and described by plaintiffs as a first-of-its-kind RICO case, accuses Big Oil of colluding to deny the climate-wrecking impacts of their fossil fuel products.

As Reuters reported...[t]he towns say the companies coordinated a multibillion-dollar "fraudulent marketing scheme" to convince consumers that fossil fuel products do not alter the climate. That campaign ran contrary to the companies' own studies showing their products accelerate climate change, resulting in more deadly storms, the lawsuit said. The municipalities said the companies outlined a plan of deception in a joint memo that took aim at international climate negotiations in the 1990s. The coordinated deception spanning decades violates U.S. racketeering and antitrust laws among others, the suit claims.

The towns argue that roughly a dozen oil, gas, and coal corporations and other actors are financially responsible for and should pay to cover the damages suffered during the catastrophic 2017 hurricane season, which was intensified by planet-heating pollution.

[The plaintiffs asserted that] "[t]he 2017 Atlantic hurricane season, featuring six major hurricanes and more than a dozen named storms, caused at least $294 billion worth of damages in the U.S. territory... Hurricanes Irma and Maria contributed to an estimated 4,600 deaths and the failure of critical infrastructure in Puerto Rico"...

Marc Grossman, a partner at one of the firms representing the municipalities, called Puerto Rico "the ultimate victim of global warming"...

Dozens of states and cities around the U.S. have sued fossil fuel corporations in a bid to make highly deceptive polluters pay for climate change-related damages and adaptation costs, mostly in state court.

Oil and gas giants have tried repeatedly to shift jurisdiction over climate liability lawsuits from state courts to federal court, where they think they will be more likely to avoid accountability...