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Legal cases – suing fossil fuel firms over rising sea levels

This could be the next big strategy for suing over climate change.
Two California coastal counties and one beach-side city touched off a possible new legal front in the climate change battle this week, suing dozens of major oil, coal, and other fossil fuel companies for the damages they say they will incur due to rising seas. July 20 2017, Two California coastal counties and one beach-side city touched off a possible new legal front in the climate change battle this week, suing dozens of major oil, coal, and other fossil fuel companies for the damages they say they will incur due to rising seas.

The three cases, which target firms such as Chevron, ExxonMobil, BP and Royal Dutch Shell, assert that the fossil fuel producers are collectively responsible for about 20 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions between 1965 and 2015. They claim that industry “knew or should have known” decades ago about the threat of climate change, and want companies to pay the costs of communities forced to adapt to rising seas.

“We’re already living the impact of sea level rise,” said Marin County Supervisor Kate Sears. She said a county vulnerability study found hundreds of county businesses and other assets could be at risk in coming years.

“This lawsuit is a natural next step in how we address the expense we’ve already had in planning for and trying to remediate the impacts of sea level rise, but also in addressing the impacts we expect in the future.”…….

The California cases are also proceeding under a legal doctrine called “public nuisance” (among other claims), which charges that under California common law, the companies have injured the counties and city by contributing to rising seas, and more frequent and severe flooding as a result.

But the difference is that this time, they are making state level nuisance claims rather than federal ones, which have already failed as courts pointed out that those worried about climate change had other recourses, such as EPA action.

The lawsuits were filed in California courts by Marin and San Mateo counties and the City of Imperial Beach, which sits south of San Diego near the Mexico border. Each cites specific damages expected from rising seas.

San Mateo cited worries about the flooding of the San Francisco Airport, along with up to $24 billion in assets being put at risk.

Marin County estimated nearly $16 billion of homes and businesses were threatened, and that with 6.7 feet of sea level rise, 7 percent of coastal roads would be “exposed to higher average sea level and storm threats at several locations.”

Imperial Beach cited the potential for “over $106 million” in property damages because of coastal erosion and argued the town has few resources to adapt to rising seas.

Vic Sher, a partner at the firm of Sher Edling who is helping lead the legal challenge, said the goal behind the lawsuits is to shift the “very real and very large costs of dealing with sea level rise” from ordinary citizens to the companies responsible for knowingly contributing to global warming.

He likened the cases to past litigation that sought to hold tobacco companies accountable for the public health toll of smoking, as well as efforts to force lead paint manufacturers to renovate homes where health risks remain……..

A strength of the lawsuit, note some legal observers, lies in the fact that sea level rise is easily measurable, constant (unlike climate-affected weather events), and very strongly linked to a warming planet. Moreover, analyses have become more and more precise when it comes to mapping which locations will be inundated, or subjected to greater flooding risks, for a given level of rising seas.

Bookbinder said there could be a time when the science is powerful enough to try to assess blame for other climate related changes, such as droughts, but that sea level rise is a stronger and simpler case right now. ……… https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2017/07/20/this-could-be-the-next-big-strategy-for-suing-over-climate-change/?utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_term=.af0543ecd151

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July 22, 2017 - Posted by | climate change, Legal, USA

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