Five oil and gas companies were sued by New Jersey officials Tuesday. They claim that they knew of the climate change impacts of fossil fuels but failed to warn the general public.
Exxon Mobil and Shell Oil have been sued by more than two dozen cities, counties and states.
In 2017, several cities in California were among the first to sue oil and gas companies. Many other states and cities have joined the ongoing litigation since then, including Rhode Island and Minnesota.
CBS News reported April 1 that the lawsuits were modeled after the “Big Tobacco” cases of the 1990s in which states paid billions to cigarette companies for their tobacco-related illnesses.
New Jersey’s case claimed that big oil and gas companies failed to warn consumers of possible dangers and also “deceive” consumers by initiating “public-relations campaign to doubt the existence, causes and effects of climate changes.”
Officials in the state blamed natural disasters on the oil and gas industry. Shawn LaTourette is New Jersey’s environment protection commissioner. He stated that the community “continually recovers from extreme heat and furious storms as well as devastating floods” due to climate change.
The lawsuit sought civil penalties and damages to pay for the costs of protecting communities from rising sea levels and natural disasters.
Exxon Mobil spokesperson Casey Norton stated that the legal proceedings would cost taxpayers millions and not help to reduce climate change risks. She stated that Exxon Mobil would continue to invest in efforts reduce greenhouse gas emissions and meet society’s increasing energy demand.
Shell argued similarly that the courtroom wasn’t “the right place” but rather smart policy from government supported by action from all sectors of business, including ours and from civil society is the best way to find solutions and drive forward.
Chevron spokeswoman said that legal proceedings were “a distraction away from the serious problem caused by global climate change, and not an attempt at finding a solution.” Representatives of Chevron stated that the lawsuit was intended to punish “a small group of energy companies for a problem which is the result worldwide conduct dating back to the Industrial Revolution.”
CBS News reported that ConocoPhillips and BP declined to comment.