(Reuters) - California cities San Francisco and Oakland filed separate lawsuits against five oil companies on Wednesday seeking billions of dollars to protect against rising sea levels they blamed on climate change, according to public documents.
The lawsuits, filed in state courts in San Francisco and Alameda Counties, alleged Chevron Corp, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil Corp, BP Plc, and Royal Dutch Shell Plc, created a public nuisance and asked for funds to finance infrastructure to deal with rising sea levels.
According to a news release from San Francisco city officials, the lawsuits mirror 1980s-era lawsuits against tobacco companies. They allege the oil giants “knowingly and recklessly created an ongoing public nuisance that is causing harm now and in the future risks catastrophic harm to human life and property.”
“Should this litigation proceed, it will only serve special interests at the expense of broader policy, regulatory, and economic priorities,” said Chevron spokeswoman Melissa Ritchie.
Shell said in statement the issue should be addressed by government policy and cultural change, not by courts.
Exxon called the lawsuits’ claims without merit, and said it would defend itself. ConocoPhillips declined to comment. BP did not respond to a request for comment.
“Congress and the Trump administration are AWOL on climate change,” said Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, saying the courts were the appropriate venue to address rising sea levels and other climate impacts.
The lawsuits are the latest in a growing body of legal action against oil companies over climate change. Prosecutors for New York and Massachusetts are investigating Exxon, for example, over the possibility it misled investors in public statements on the risks of climate change.
Marin and San Mateo counties and Imperial Beach, California, in July brought similar public nuisance and failure to warn lawsuits alleging climate change impacts. Those three lawsuits sued the same five plus other oil companies and coal producers.
The cases are People of the State of California V. BP et al., San Francisco Superior Court Case No. CGC 17-561370, and People of the State of California V. BP et al., Alameda County Superior Court Case No. RG17875889.
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