Oil companies face climate change lawsuits after years of delays
Credit: Ben Kuo/Unsplash

Oil companies face climate change lawsuits after years of delays

After a prolonged battle through the courts, major fossil fuel corporations are poised for trials in a series of lawsuits filed by state and local governments for climate-related damages.

Alex Brown reports for Stateline.


In short:

  • State and local governments have initiated legal action against fossil fuel companies, alleging that their activities have significantly contributed to climate change and demanding compensation for damages and adaptation costs.
  • The legal strategy aims to hold these corporations accountable for deceptive practices and the long-term impact of their actions on the environment, with some cases seeking to compel them to fund public education on climate change.
  • Recent judicial rulings favoring state courts as the venue for these trials have paved the way for potentially landmark legal battles that could have significant financial implications for the oil industry.

Key quote:

“Consumers are aware of global climate change and continue to use oil. [The lawsuits] are an underhanded way of the states throwing on carbon taxes without having to take responsibility for it.”

— Wayne Winegarden, a senior fellow at the Pacific Research Institute

Why this matters:

In a series of legal battles reminiscent of the lawsuits against tobacco companies in the late 20th century, state and local governments across the United States have taken aim at major fossil fuel companies. They allege that these corporations have played a significant role in contributing to climate change, leading to widespread environmental and health impacts. The lawsuits argue that these companies have known for decades about the damaging effects of burning fossil fuels on the global climate but chose to publicly downplay or deny the risks, misleading the public and regulators.

In 2018, Peter Dykstra wrote: Environmental advocates are getting a strong whiff of justice from American courthouses lately, and oddly, the victories smell worse than the setbacks.

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