Several AGs Defend Big Oil As King County’s Climate Crusade Melts Down

Chris White | Energy Reporter

Several states filed an amicus brief Wednesday on behalf of oil companies as they struggle to fend off a Washington county’s effort to hold them accountable for climate change.

Attorneys general from Indiana, Colorado and Texas, among others, are pushing back against King County’s effort to target Chevron and ExxonMobil for effects related to man-made global warming. They criticized the county for using the court system instead of the legislative process to address climate change.

“To determine liability, the court would need to determine that King County has a ‘right’ to the climate-in all of its infinite variations-as it stood at some unspecified time in the past, then find not only that this idealized climate has changed, but that Defendants caused that change through ‘unreasonable’ action that deprived Plaintiff of its right to the idealized climate,” the coalition wrote in the brief.

The manufacturing industry weighed in on the AG move as well. (RELATED: Chevron Is Not Letting King County Delay Its Beleaguered Climate Crusade)

“Once more, a strong coalition of state attorneys general have joined together to support manufacturers against a baseless lawsuit filed by plaintiffs’ attorneys,” Lindsey de la Torre of the National Association of Manufacturers wrote in a press statement Wednesday.

Their brief comes after King County officials in Washington state alleged in May that Chevron’s oil production poses an “imminent” threat to the safety of its citizens. They are now trying to stay the lawsuit due to appeals in similar cases brought by San Francisco and Oakland, California, that will linger in the courts for a year.

The suit, which was brought by Seattle-based law firm Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro, sought to create an abatement fund addressing changes to infrastructure, like bridge maintenance, salmon recovery and public health.

Hagens Berman is also behind Oakland and San Francisco’s litigation, which is currently in the appeal process following a court’s decision. The law firm stood to rake in billions of dollars in contingency fees depending on the total winnings from a favorable judgement against oil companies.

Cities and trial lawyers argue the alleged effects of global warming, including sea level rise and extreme weather, violate public nuisance laws. Cities want oil companies to pay for past damages and future mitigation projects.

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