Climate lawsuits against the oil industry are popping up in courts across the country, and experts see this month’s succession of new filings from state and local officials as a sign of more to come.
Environmental advocates often compare the growing body of climate misinformation suits to litigation against the tobacco industry, which eventually forced four major cigarette companies to amend their advertising campaigns and shell out more than $206 billion over 25 years to 46 states, five territories and the District of Columbia under the terms of a 1998 master settlement agreement.
“The claims in these climate cases could dwarf that,” said Vermont Law School professor Pat Parenteau.
Though the climate cases aren’t likely to morph into Big Tobacco-style litigation in the near future, some say the recent uptick in climate filings is an increasingly large pressure point for oil and gas companies.
City leaders and state attorneys general from New Jersey, South Carolina, Delaware and Connecticut this month filed four new actions that seek to hold the industry financially accountable for the local impacts of climate change.
Their complaints — which joined more than a dozen others — all allege that the industry engaged in a long campaign of coordinated deception about how fossil fuels contribute to global warming. The lawsuits target producers and trade groups like Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp., BP PLC and the American Petroleum Institute.
Proceedings in the cases are typically marked by lengthy jurisdictional battles over whether state