New York City Files Multibillion-Dollar Lawsuit Against 5 Major Oil Firms

Five of the world’s largest oil companies are now in the process of being sued by New York City for their “contributions to global warming,” Comptroller Scott Stringer has revealed.

The companies in question are: Chevron, BP, Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell, and ConocoPhillips — arguably the 5 top oil firms in the world that aren’t state-owned.

“The basis of the lawsuit is simple,” writes Steve Hanley on CleanTechnica. “The companies knew the harm their products were causing but crafted a carefully coordinated strategy to lie to the public so they could continue to profit from their activities.”

Going on: “When Superstorm Sandy swooped down on northern New Jersey and New York City in October 2012, it caused more than $71 billion in economic damage, according to the National Hurricane Center. New York City has spent billions to repair the damage. Now it wants the 5 largest oil companies to reimburse it for its losses and pay for the infrastructure improvements needed to protect the city from the impacts of rising sea levels and even more powerful storms in the future.”

This announcement follows the filing of similar lawsuits by San Francisco and a couple of other cities last year.

“Safeguarding the retirement of our city’s police officers, teachers, firefighters and city workers is our top priority, and we believe that their financial future is linked to the sustainability of the planet,” explained Comptroller Scott Stringer in a public statement.

Accompanying the lawsuit, officials in New York City will also be working to divest fossil fuel investments from its $189 billion public pension funds — over the next 5 years or so, reportedly.

Exxon released a somewhat humorous response to news of the lawsuit that seems worth highlighting here: “Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a global issue and requires global participation and actions. Lawsuits of this kind — filed by trial attorneys against an industry that provides products we all rely upon to power the economy and enable our domestic life — simply do not do that.”

That’s a bit of a funny statement, isn’t it? I’m not sure what the people who wrote it were aiming for … but, hey, “do not do that,” is an effective argument in its way, I guess?

Reuters provides more: “Chevron also said the lawsuits only serve special interests. ConocoPhillips declined to comment, and neither BP nor Shell could immediately be reached. Exxon this week hit back against the California lawsuits in a filing with a Texas state court pointing out none of the cities disclosed such risks to bond buyers and arguing the lawsuits were politically motivated and linked to cases brought by the states of New York and Massachusetts.”

Well, of course it’s political. That’s the point — officials using their clout to attempt to represent the best interests of those they represent. The future of New York City is looking dire, after all, it should be remembered.

It’s noteworthy here that if the plans to divest around $5 billion in securities from around 200 oil firms — which is effectively what New York City is now aiming for — go through, then it will represent the largest pension divestments to date. That’s got to matter to somebody.

For those wanting to find out more, the lawsuit is: City of New York vs BP Plc et al, US District Court for Manhattan No. 1:18-cv-00182.

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