From SFGate.com comes this remarkable story about municipal governments attempting to hold corporations accountable for the negative environmental effects of their businesses:
The cities of San Francisco and Oakland are suing some of the world’s largest oil companies over climate change, joining an emerging legal effort to hold the fossil fuel industry accountable for the damages wrought by rising seas.
The suits, filed separately Tuesday in Superior Court in San Francisco and Alameda County, claim that a slate of oil, gas and coal producers not only caused the heat-trapping gases that drove sea-level rise but knowingly did so, a challenge akin to litigation against big tobacco companies in the 1990s.
The cities are asking companies like ExxonMobil, Shell, and BP to pay billions in damages for flooding and coastal erosion associated with rising seas. As SFGate notes, it’s hard to say whether they think there’s a legitimate shot to win, or is just being used to make a political point and perhaps set a precedent. Marin County, San Mateo County, and a city government in San Diego County made the same move two months ago, but so far this type of action against the energy giants hasn’t been effective—though that could change as scientific advances make their exact culpability clearer.
That said, the suit is not frivolous—the effects of rising sea levels will force coastal cities like San Francisco to spend millions, and perhaps billions, in upgrades to its sea walls in order to prevent catastrophic flooding.
In the suit, the cities compare big oil to big tobacco for the way they conducted PR campaigns to disguise the deleterious environmental damage they knew they were causing. The cases were filed in state court.