The city and county of Santa Cruz have filed lawsuits against 29 fossil fuel companies, including ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, and Shell, holding them responsible for the impacts of climate change, the news site Climate Liability News reported. The new lawsuits join a growing number of California communities that have filed suit against oil and gas companies to hold them accountable for their role in driving climate change.
In July, Marin County, San Mateo County, and the city of Imperial Beach sued 37 fossil fuel companies, seeking damages from the industry for its role in sea level rise. The cities of San Francisco and Oakland then filed their own suits in September against five major oil companies.
The lawsuits by Santa Cruz go further than the ones filed earlier this year, seeking restitution not just for sea level rise, but also for damage to the state’s hydrologic cycle that Santa Cruz contends has caused severe weather, drought, and wildfires.
“These companies not only understood the consequences of fossil fuel use on global climate change, but their own scientists did much of the early, groundbreaking research, and issued detailed warnings decades ago,” Santa Cruz Mayor David Terrazas said in a statement. “The fact that they later worked hard to discredit the science is extremely troubling, and may well have delayed actions that could have prevented serious, global impacts. This lawsuit raises serious issues and deserves a full public discussion.”
The fossil fuel companies have petitioned to have the previous California suits moved to federal court, a venue where the firms have been more successful in fighting climate liability claims in the past, according to Climate Liability News. But the lawsuits by San Francisco and Oakland are structured to stay in state court, using claims similar to those successfully used in a lawsuit against the lead paint industry.