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Rhode Island Launches Anti-Oil Lawsuit

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Rhode Island yesterday filed a lawsuit against 21 oil companies, including Exxon, Chevron, and ConocoPhillips, for contributing to climate change that is hurting the state’s coastline, marine ecosystem, and economy, according to Attorney General Peter Kilmartin.

“Rhode Island is especially vulnerable to the effects of climate changes that is now on our doorstep with sea level rise and an increase in severe weather patterns, as seen by the extensive damage caused by storms in the past several years, including Super Storm Sandy and the floods of 2010,” Kilmartin said in a statement.

This is by far the biggest anti-oil lawsuit in terms of number of defendants. Previous cases have targeted Big Oil supermajors such as Exxon, Shell, and BP almost exclusively, but Rhode Island is ambitious in being the first state to sue the oil industry for the effects of climate change.

"For a very long time, there has been this perception that 'Big Oil' was too big to take on, but here we are – the smallest state – taking on some of the biggest corporate polluters in the world. The defendants have contributed greatly to the increased costs associated with climate change, and as such, should be held legally responsible for those damages."

The chances of success for the lawsuit, however, are uncertain at best judging by the latest news in two other such cases. Like the cases brought against Big Oil by New York, San Francisco and Oakland, the Rhode Island case accuses Big Oil of public nuisance.

Related: What Trump’s Tweet Actually Means For Oil

Just last week, California district judge William Alsup dismissed San Francisco’s and Oakland’s case against Big Oil on the grounds that the matter fell within the competencies of the legislative authorities rather than the judiciary. Adding insult to injury, the judge made a point of noting that the fossil fuel industry has brought many benefits to the world despite its role in climate change.

In another notable case, in New York, Judge John Keenan questioned the merit of the case against Big Oil, saying “The firehouses all have trucks. The Sanitation Department has trucks. If you open the door and go out to Foley Square, you’re going to see five police cars. Does the city have clean hands?”

In both these cases, Big Oil has maintained that the issue of climate change does not belong in court but with the legislative authorities of the country.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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  • T F Kay on July 03 2018 said:
    Rhode Island indeed shows signs of degeneration on brain power. Not sure it is due to Big Oil though.

    I suggest those "activists" to sue everyone in the world for using and burning mineral oils, not the ones that are providing it. Polluters are the users, not the producers for crying out loud. But that most probably would include those little sweethearts themselves ...

    Simple as that it is.

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