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Climate Change Lawsuits against Oil Companies

This is a reverse chronological listing of the major lawsuits and criminal investigations launched against fossil fuel companies, the most recent ones in the wake of the publication of two separate investigative series in 2015, first by InsideClimate News and then the Columbia University School of Journalism and Los Angeles Times, into the cutting-edge research on climate change conducted by Exxon as far back as the 1970s and later industry efforts to cast doubt on the science and to delay efforts to cut emissions. See what Exxon and other Oil Companies knew about climate change here. (This list is currently in process).

DATE FILED

THE PARTIES TO THE LAWSUIT

CAUSE OF ACTION/UPDATES

Jan. 22, 2018

City of Richmond vs. Chevron Corp; Chevron USA Inc.; ExxonMobil Corp.; BP PLC; BP America, Inc.; Royal Dutch Shell Plc; Shell Oil Products Company LLC; Citgo Petroleum Corp.; ConocoPhillips; ConocoPhillips Company; Phillips 66; Peabody Energy Corp; Total E&P USA Inc.; Total Specialties USA Inc.; Arch Coal, Inc.; ENI SpA; Eni Oil & Gas Inc.; Eni SpA,; Rio Tinto Plc; Rio Tinto Ltd.; Rio Tinto Energy America Inc.; Rio Tinto Minerals, Inc.; Rio Tinto Services Inc.; Statoil Asa; Anadarko Petroleum Corp.; Occidental Petroleum Corp.; Occidental Chemical Corp.; Repsol SA; Repsol Energy North America Corp.; Repsol Trading USA Corp.; Marathon Oil Compay; Marathon Oil Corporation; Marathon Petroleum Corp.; Hess Corp.; Devon Energy Corp.; Devon Energy Production Company, LP; Encana Corp.; Apache Corp.; and Does 1 through 100, inclusive.

The lawsuit accuses the companies of having known, for nearly five decades, “that greenhouse gas pollution from their fossil fuel products had a significant impact on the Earth’s climate and sea levels.” They say the companies’ “awareness of the negative implications of their behavior corresponds” with rising greenhouse gas emissions. Together, the lawsuits say, the companies were responsible for roughly 20 percent of total emissions from 1965 to 2015.

Dec. 20, 2017

City of Sant Cruz vs. Chevron Corp; Chevron USA Inc.; ExxonMobil Corp.; BP PLC; BP America, Inc.; Royal Dutch Shell Plc; Shell Oil Products Company LLC; Citgo Petroleum Corp.; ConocoPhillips; ConocoPhillips Company; Phillips 66; Peabody Energy Corp; Total E&P USA Inc.; Total Specialties USA Inc.; Arch Coal, Inc.; ENI SpA; Eni Oil & Gas Inc.; Eni SpA,; Rio Tinto Plc; Rio Tinto Ltd.; Rio Tinto Energy America Inc.; Rio Tinto Minerals, Inc.; Rio Tinto Services Inc.; Statoil Asa; Anadarko Petroleum Corp.; Occidental Petroleum Corp.; Occidental Chemical Corp.; Repsol SA; Repsol Energy North America Corp.; Repsol Trading USA Corp.; Marathon Oil Compay; Marathon Oil Corporation; Marathon Petroleum Corp.; Hess Corp.; Devon Energy Corp.; Devon Energy Production Company, LP; Encana Corp.; Apache Corp.; and Does 1 through 100, inclusive.

The lawsuit accuses the companies of having known, for nearly five decades, “that greenhouse gas pollution from their fossil fuel products had a significant impact on the Earth’s climate and sea levels.” They say the companies’ “awareness of the negative implications of their behavior corresponds” with rising greenhouse gas emissions. Together, the lawsuits say, the companies were responsible for roughly 20 percent of total emissions from 1965 to 2015.

July 17, 2017

County of San Mateo vs. Chevron Corp; Chevron USA Inc.; ExxonMobil Corp.; BP PLC; BP America, Inc.; Royal Dutch Shell Plc; Shell Oil Products Company LLC; Citgo Petroleum Corp.; ConocoPhillips; ConocoPhillips Company; Phillips 66; Peabody Energy Corp; Total E&P USA Inc.; Total Specialties USA Inc.; Arch Coal, Inc.; ENI SpA; Eni Oil & Gas Inc.; Eni SpA,; Rio Tinto Plc; Rio Tinto Ltd.; Rio Tinto Energy America Inc.; Rio Tinto Minerals, Inc.; Rio Tinto Services Inc.; Statoil Asa; Anadarko Petroleum Corp.; Occidental Petroleum Corp.; Occidental Chemical Corp.; Repsol SA; Repsol Energy North America Corp.; Repsol Trading USA Corp.; Marathon Oil Compay; Marathon Oil Corporation; Marathon Petroleum Corp.; Hess Corp.; Devon Energy Corp.; Devon Energy Production Company, LP; Encana Corp.; Apache Corp.; and Does 1 through 100, inclusive.

The lawsuit accuses the companies of having known, for nearly five decades, “that greenhouse gas pollution from their fossil fuel products had a significant impact on the Earth’s climate and sea levels.” They say the companies’ “awareness of the negative implications of their behavior corresponds” with rising greenhouse gas emissions. Together, the lawsuits say, the companies were responsible for roughly 20 percent of total emissions from 1965 to 2015.

July 17, 2017

County of Marin vs. Chevron Corp; Chevron USA Inc.; ExxonMobil Corp.; BP PLC; BP America, Inc.; Royal Dutch Shell Plc; Shell Oil Products Company LLC; Citgo Petroleum Corp.; ConocoPhillips; ConocoPhillips Company; Phillips 66; Peabody Energy Corp; Total E&P USA Inc.; Total Specialties USA Inc.; Arch Coal, Inc.; ENI SpA; Eni Oil & Gas Inc.; Eni SpA,; Rio Tinto Plc; Rio Tinto Ltd.; Rio Tinto Energy America Inc.; Rio Tinto Minerals, Inc.; Rio Tinto Services Inc.; Statoil Asa; Anadarko Petroleum Corp.; Occidental Petroleum Corp.; Occidental Chemical Corp.; Repsol SA; Repsol Energy North America Corp.; Repsol Trading USA Corp.; Marathon Oil Compay; Marathon Oil Corporation; Marathon Petroleum Corp.; Hess Corp.; Devon Energy Corp.; Devon Energy Production Company, LP; Encana Corp.; Apache Corp.; and Does 1 through 100, inclusive.

The lawsuit accuses the companies of having known, for nearly five decades, “that greenhouse gas pollution from their fossil fuel products had a significant impact on the Earth’s climate and sea levels.” They say the companies’ “awareness of the negative implications of their behavior corresponds” with rising greenhouse gas emissions. Together, the lawsuits say, the companies were responsible for roughly 20 percent of total emissions from 1965 to 2015.

July 17, 2017

City of Imperial Beach vs. Chevron Corp; Citgo Petroleum Corp.; ConocoPhillips; ConocoPhillips Company; Phillips 66; Peabody Energy Corp; Total E&P USA Inc.; Total Specialties USA Inc.; Arch Coal, Inc.; ENI SpA; Eni Oil & Gas Inc.; Eni SpA,; Rio Tinto Plc; Rio Tinto Ltd.; Rio Tinto Energy America Inc.; Rio Tinto Minerals, Inc.; Rio Tinto Services Inc.; Statoil Asa; Anadarko Petroleum Corp.; Occidental Petroleum Corp.; Occidental Chemical Corp.; Repsol SA; Repsol Energy North America Corp.; Repsol Trading USA Corp.; Marathon Oil Compay; Marathon Oil Corporation; Marathon Petroleum Corp.; Hess Corp.; Devon Energy Corp.; Devon Energy Production Company, LP; Encana Corp.; Apache Corp.; and Does 1 through 100, inclusive.

The lawsuit accuses the companies of having known, for nearly five decades, “that greenhouse gas pollution from their fossil fuel products had a significant impact on the Earth’s climate and sea levels.” They say the companies’ “awareness of the negative implications of their behavior corresponds” with rising greenhouse gas emissions. Together, the lawsuits say, the companies were responsible for roughly 20 percent of total emissions from 1965 to 2015.

2016

Massachusetts v. West Roxbury Protesters. The Climate Disobedience Center announced on March 27, 2018 that a Massachusetts district court had acquitted—based on a necessity defense—13 defendants arrested in 2016 while protesting the West Roxbury Lateral Pipeline. The defendants collectively presented a powerful and comprehensive argument for why it was necessary to engage in civil disobedience to stop the imminent local and global harms of this fracked gas pipeline. Following their testimony, the judge ruled that the defendants’ actions were necessary in order prevent a greater harm. While defendants were still denied a jury trial and the possibility of a full necessity defense, this is the first time that defendants were acquitted by a U.S. judge based on climate necessity.

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The Climate Defense Project, one of the organizations whose attorneys represented the defendants, said the defense had prepared for a full trial in which they would mount a climate necessity defense—relying on experts including climate scientist James Hansen and the founder of 350.org, Bill McKibben—but that the prosecutor had reduced charges of trespass and disorderly conduct to civil infractions that did not require a trial. The Climate Disobedience Center said the judge nevertheless allowed each defendant to testify regarding the necessity of their actions.

April 19, 2016

Massachusetts Attorney General Investigates Exxon. Specifically, the investigation seeks information regarding whether Exxon may have misled consumers and/or investors with respect to the impact of fossil fuels on climate change, and climate change-driven risks to Exxon’s business.

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Attorney General Healey opened an investigation by issuing a civil investigative demand to Exxon Mobil concerning potential violations of the Massachusetts consumer protection statute, M.G.L. c. 93A, Section 2, and its implementing regulations, arising both from Exxon’s (1) marketing and/or sale of energy and other fossil fuel derived products to consumers in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and (2) the marketing and/or sale of securities, as defined in M.G.L. c. 110A, Section 401(k), to investors in the Commonwealth.

March 29, 2016

Attorneys General From California, Connecticut, District Of Columbia, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, Washington State And The US Virgin Islands Agree To Coordinate Efforts and announced plan to initiate legal action against ExxonMobil and other groups opposing President Obama’s Clean Power Plan.

The participating states are exploring working together on key climate change-related initiatives, such as ongoing and potential investigations into whether fossil fuel companies misled investors and the public on the impact of climate change on their businesses.

November 4, 2015

New York Attorney General Investigation of ExxonMobil, began with a subpoena to Exxon Mobil seeking extensive financial records, emails, and other documents covering a 40-year period as part of an investigation that began a year earlier. The investigation is being conducted under the State’s Martin Act, which forbids financial fraud and gives the State broad investigative powers. The investigation is also reported to be looking into whether Exxon violated state consumer protection laws.

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Exxon Mobil Corporation (Exxon) confirmed that it had received a subpoena from the New York State Attorney General’s Office related to the company’s statements to investors and its board of directors regarding climate change risks and their consistency with the company’s internal research. Reports on the subpoena are available in the New York Times, Bloomberg Business, and InsideClimate News. [Update: The subpoena subsequently became public when Exxon included it in filings made in the federal district court for the Northern District of Texas.]

September 10, 2015

Juliana vs. The United States

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Youth filed Juliana v. U.S., against the U.S. government in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon in 2015, asserting that, through the government’s affirmative actions that cause climate change, it has violated the youngest generation’s constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property, as well as failed to protect essential public trust resources. The fossil fuel industry initially intervened in the case as defendants, joining the U.S. government in trying to have the case dismissed.

Prior to 2015?

(Being researched)

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New York State reached a historic settlement with Peabody Energy – the world’s largest publicly traded coal company – concerning the company’s misleading financial statements and disclosures.

2011

Alec L. vs. McCarthy

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Five individual teenagers, and two non-profit organizations representing thousands more young people, Kids vs. Global Warming and WildEarth Guardians, partnered with OUR CHILDREN’S TRUST to file a federal lawsuit that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The youth sought to require the federal government to immediately plan for national climate recovery according to the scientific prescription of Dr. James Hansen and other leading international climate scientists that will restore our atmosphere to 350 parts per million (ppm) of CO2 by the end of the century and avoid the disastrous scenarios of 2°C of warming. The lawsuit was premised on the long-established legal principle of the Public Trust Doctrine, which requires our government to protect and maintain survival resources for future generations.

February 26, 2008

Alaskan village of Kivalina vs. two dozen energy companies. The complaint in Kivalina was filed in February 2008, by the governing bodies of an Alaskan tribal village. (Click for a video trailer about this case.)

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The case alleged that their village is being threatened by the effects of climate change—specifically, by the reduction in protective sea ice and an increase in storms and flooding—and asserted that the 24 oil, energy, and utility companies named as defendants should be held liable for the costs of relocating the village, estimated at $400 million, because they had allegedly contributed to the risks of climate change through their greenhouse gas emissions. The plaintiffs styled their cause of action as a “nuisance” claim under federal common law, although they asserted in the alternative that their claims might also proceed as a matter of state common law because about two dozen energy companies not only created a public nuisance by causing coastal flooding but also worked together to hide the effects of greenhouse gas emissions.

2018-10-26T23:27:00+00:00

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  1. Avatar
    MyWorldSecur July 3, 2018 at 11:35 am - Reply

    Courts are a new front line of climate action with cases against governments and oil firms spiralling, and while victories have so far been rare the pressure for change is growing.

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