‘They lied to all of us’: Big Oil hit with climate change lawsuit from suburban Philadelphia county

‘They lied to all of us’: Big Oil hit with climate change lawsuit from suburban Philadelphia county

A large suburban Philadelphia county has joined dozens of other local governments around the country in suing the oil industry, asserting that major oil producers systematically deceived the public about their role in accelerating global warming.

Bucks County’s lawsuit against a half dozen oil companies blames the oil industry for more frequent and intense storms — including one last summer that killed seven people there — flooding, saltwater intrusion, extreme heat “and other devastating climate change impacts” from the burning of fossil fuels. The county wants oil producers to pay to mitigate the damage caused by climate change.

“These companies have known since at least the 1950s that their ways of doing business were having calamitous effects on our planet, and rather than change what they were doing or raise the alarm, they lied to all of us,” Bucks County Commissioner Gene DiGirolamo said in a statement. “The taxpayers should not have to foot the bill for these companies and their greed.”

Dozens of municipal governments in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, South Carolina and Puerto Rico as well as eight states and Washington, D.C., have filed suit in recent years against oil and gas companies over their role in climate change, according to the Center for Climate Integrity.

Bucks County, which borders Philadelphia and has a population of about 650,000, is the first local government in Pennsylvania to sue, the climate group said. The county’s 31 municipalities will spend $955 million through 2040 to address climate change impacts, the group forecast last year.

Residents and businesses “should not have to bear the costs of climate change alone,” the county argued in its suit, filed Monday in county court. It cited several extreme weather events in Bucks County, including a severe storm in July that dumped seven inches of rain in 45 minutes and caused a deadly flash flood.

The suit named as defendants BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Philips 66, Shell and the American Petroleum Institute, an industry group.

Chevron said through its attorney, Theodore J. Boutrous Jr., that “addressing climate change requires a coordinated international policy response, not meritless local litigation over lawful and essential energy production.”

API said in response that the industry provides “affordable, reliable energy energy to U.S. consumers” while taking steps over the past two decades to reduce emissions. It said climate change policy is the responsibility of Congress, not local governments and courts.

“This ongoing, coordinated campaign to wage meritless, politicized lawsuits against a foundational American industry and its workers is nothing more than a distraction from important national conversations and an enormous waste of taxpayer resources,” Ryan Meyers, the group’s senior vice president and general counsel, said in a statement.

In 2021, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed a lawsuit by New York City against five oil companies to recoup damages caused by global warming.

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