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Multnomah County in Oregon has filed a lawsuit against Exxon, Chevron, the American Petroleum Institute, and other organizations for what it claims is the harm it suffered as a result of a heat wave in 2021 caused, it claimed, by climate change.
Per a Reuters report, the plaintiffs alleged that Big Oil and its industry association and other affiliated groups knew about the harmful environmental effects of their products for decades but hid this knowledge from the public.
Now, the plaintiffs argued, the industry must pay for damage allegedly caused by extreme weather resulting from its activities. Multnomah County is seeking $51 billion in damages.
"This is an event that is directly attributed to the impacts that we are seeing on our climate because of the actions of fossil fuel companies and their agencies that have been pressing for decades to deny climate science," County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson told the AFP.
The Heat Dome, which hit the western part of the U.S. in the summer of 2021 and led to the death of some 1,400 people, brought temperatures as high as 116 F in Portland, Oregon, and a record 121.3 F in British Columbia.
In Multnomah County, the heat dome caused an estimated 69 deaths, a report cited by Oregon Public Broadcasting found, compared to zero deaths in a normal year.
“These businesses knew their products were unsafe and harmful, and they lied about it,” Vega Pederson said in a statement. “They have profited massively from their lies and left the rest of us to suffer the consequences and pay for the damages.”
OPB also cited the response of Exxon to the lawsuit.
“Suits like these continue to waste time,” Exxon said. “This action has no impact on our intention to invest billions of dollars to leading the way in a thoughtful energy transition that takes the world to net zero carbon emissions.”
Multnomah County is seeking $50 million in current damages for the harm caused by the heat dome. Yet it is also seeking $50 billion in compensation for what it calls an abatement fund that would be used to adapt the county’s infrastructure to changing weather.
Another $1.5 billion is sought in compensation for future damages caused by extreme weather events such as heat waves, droughts, and wildfires, the AFP reported.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.