Lie-Liable Fossil Fuel Companies

Following record rains in April of 2014, a section of Baltimore street simply collapsed. Now there’s some chance of holding the culprits accountable.

Thanks to Bill McKibben for this legal news following plenty of precursor stories on the same topic:

High court lets cities and states sue Exxon et al

…But something else happened yesterday too, with a price tag that may eventually dwarf that settlement, and with even larger potential implications for the future of the planet. The Supreme Court, also tersely, declined to grant cert in a case brought by oil companies desperately trying to hold off state court trials for their climate crimes.

To make a long story short: Eight years ago, journalists—led by Inside Climate News and the LA Times—began publishing stories proving that the big oil companies knew all there was to know about the dangers of global warming back in the 1980s. Among other consequences, this helped convince the legal departments of a number of cities and states to launch lawsuits against the oil giants, on the grounds that they’d done great and knowing damage to the taxpayers of these jurisdictions, who were having to clean up after the endless storms, fires, and floods.

This freaked out the industry, because it could see one possible future: a series of judgments large enough to bring it, like the tobacco industry, to its knees, forced to make some kind of general settlement just to stay in business. (This would be karmic payback of a high order, since Big Oil had hired pr veterans from the cigarette companies to help build out their climate denial campaigns).

And so they they’ve hit back on every possible front, from apparently launching a massive hacking campaign to surveil their opponents to employing their high-end legal talent in an effort to thwart those lawsuits or, barring that, to move them to federal court, figuring that (thanks in part to their longtime support of the GOP politicians who have filled the judiciary with their partisans) they’d never face real justice there.

But the Supreme Court yesterday refused to let them do that—the longstanding precedents giving state and local courts rights to hear cases like this about companies that do business in their jurisdictions were too high to overcome, even for this Court. And so the cases—in Baltimore, in Colorado, in a dozen other jurisdictions around the country—may now proceed.

“This was the right decision, and it is time to prepare for trial,” Sara Gross, who heads the Affirmative Litigation Division in Baltimore’s Law Department, told the Maryland Daily Record. “Since we filed this case nearly five years ago, the climate crisis has worsened, the costs to Baltimore taxpayers are skyrocketing, and the defendants have pocketed trillions of dollars in profits while trying to dodge accountability for their deception,” Gross said…

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