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There has been no conspiracy by Big Oil to suppress climate change facts, District Judge William Alsup said at a court hearing on the suit brought against several Big Oil companies by the cities of San Francisco and Oakland.
This means one of the main pillars of the plaintiffs’ case has been toppled. The suit alleged that the five Big Oil defendants engaged in “a large-scale, sophisticated advertising and public relations campaign” aimed at promoting the use of their products despite their awareness that these products were contributing to climate change.
The Five Big Oil majors, including Exxon, Chevron, Shell, ConocoPhillips, and BP, were questioned by the judge on Wednesday on climate change as the two California cities seek billions from them to tackle environmental damage resulting, according to the plaintiffs, from the defendants’ activities.
The five companies’ stance is that the lawsuit should be dismissed, Reuters noted in a report on the hearing, because control over the production of oil and gas and carbon emissions from the industry is the prerogative of environmental regulators and not courts.
The Big Oil defendants have also argued the environmental damage the two cities’ authorities claim they have sustained is “speculative”, involving billions of people using oil and gas as well as long environmental processes.
Related: Schwarzenegger Accuses Big Oil Of 1st Degree Murder
Suing Big Oil for climate change is turning into the latest big thing. A UN survey from last year found there are nearly 900 suits focusing on climate change across 25 countries. The latest in the United States was former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger threatening to sue Big Oil for “first-degree murder”.
The San Francisco and Oakland suits were filed last September, and Reuters at the time quoted San Francisco officials as saying that the five oil companies “knowingly and recklessly created an ongoing public nuisance that is causing harm now and in the future risks catastrophic harm to human life and property.”
Then this January, New York City’s mayor Bill de Blasio threatened Big Oil with more lawsuits, comparing the industry to the tobacco giants, saying they “systematically poisoned the Earth, knew about it, covered it up, explained it away, tried to hook people more and more on their product.”
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.