Colorado Cities Spent A Year Planning How To Win Big On Climate Lawsuit Against Oil Companies

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Tim Pearce Energy Reporter
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Three municipalities in Colorado officially sued oil and gas companies over climate change a year after an environmental law firm approached them offering pro bono representation against the businesses, Western Wire reports.

Earth Rights International (ERI) picked Boulder County, the city of Boulder and San Miguel County as potential additions to a legal campaign to hold oil and gas companies responsible for global climate change. The local governments’ position in the interior U.S. would diversify the list of plaintiffs led by communities on the East and West coasts. (RELATED: Boulder Becomes Latest City To Join Climate Crusade Against Energy Companies)

Boulder County Commissioner Elise Jones directed staff to begin researching the potential of joining the lawsuit after “Boulder County was approached by Earth Rights International to become a plaintiff in this lawsuit” sometime in the spring of 2017, according to an email obtained by the Western Wire. The city of Boulder announced its intention to sue April 17, 2018, alongside Boulder and San Miguel Counties.

The lawsuit’s aim is to force oil and gas companies to pay for damage done by severe weather linked to climate change. The companies would be obligated to pay into a fund that would be used to cover damages, as well as pay for infrastructure improvements meant to protect cities and counties against future severe weather events.

A federal judge in California threw out two similar lawsuits by Oakland and San Francisco, Calif., last month, raising doubts that climate litigation in other areas of the U.S. will be more successful. (RELATED: A Federal Judge Torches Two Lawsuits Trying To Blame Oil Companies For Climate Change)

U.S. District Judge William Alsup ruled that the matter should be settled in Congress or some international forum.

“The scope of plaintiffs’ theory is breathtaking. It would reach the sale of fossil fuels anywhere in  the world, including all past and otherwise lawful sales, where  the seller knew that the combustion of fossil fuels contributed to the phenomenon of global warming,” Alsup wrote in his decision. “While these actions are brought against the first, second, fourth, sixth and ninth largest producers of fossil fuels, anyone who supplied fossil fuels with knowledge of the problem would be liable.”

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