While delivering a partial victory for science by affirming the undeniable role that fossil fuels have played in the global climate crisis, a federal judge on Monday tossed out a pair of lawsuits filed by the cities of Oakland and San Francisco, California that sought to make five oil and gas companies pay for their contributions to global warming-induced sea level rise, which has left oceanfront communities fighting increased flooding, coastal erosion, and property damage.
U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup—who was lauded earlier this year for hosting a historic “climate tutorial” in court for this case—wrote in his 16-page decision:
Because the cities accused these five major fossil fuel companies—BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Royal Dutch Shell—of creating a “public nuisance” that warranted compensation, this particular case wasn’t about solving the global climate crisis, explained Richard Wiles of the Center for Climate Integrity, “but simply whether oil and gas producers should help San Francisco and Oakland pay for the costs of adapting to it.”
“By kicking the case to a do-nothing Congress and a climate denying White House, the court essentially ruled that taxpayers alone should pay the massive costs of adapting to climate change,” Wiles said.
“There are always adverse decisions along the road to victory. That was true in tobacco, lead, and asbestos, where the courts ultimately crafted a solution to a major crisis. This fight is just getting started and we expect to win.”
—Richard Wiles, Center for Climate Integrity
“This is obviously not the ruling we wanted, but this doesn’t mean the case is over,” John Coté, a spokesman for the San Francisco city attorney, said. “We’re reviewing the order and will decide on our next steps shortly.”
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