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Big Oil companies have become vulnerable to lawsuits from California cities and counties for their role in climate change after they lost two crucial lawsuits at the state court of appeals.
The Associated Press reports that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of state courts as proper places for climate change lawsuits against energy companies, rejecting the arguments of five Big Oil majors, including Exxon, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, BP, and Shell.
There are many cities and counties in California itching to sue Big Oil for its role in climate change, with allegations generally revolving around the argument that Big Oil knew their products were harmful for the environment but they marketed them as safe.
“It is time for these companies to pay their fair share,” the AP quoted San Francisco’s Attorney General, Dennis Herrera, as commenting on the ruling. “They should not be able to stick taxpayers with the bill for the damage they knew they were causing. We will continue to hold these companies accountable for their decades-long campaign of public deception about climate change and its consequences.”
San Francisco is among those eager to sue Big Oil for its role in climate change. In fact, the city, along with another Californian town, Oakland, sued five Big Oil majors alleging a conspiracy to suppress climate change facts. The plaintiffs lost that case at a district court but now the appeals court decision could open the door to what could become a wave of lawsuits against supermajors and smaller energy companies.
However, the AP notes, the rulings may not get to a jury at all. First, they would be reviewed by a larger panel at the 9th Circuit Court and then by the Supreme Court. If the pass these tests, then Big Oil majors would find themselves in some serious legal pickle.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.