Chicago joins “historic wave” of climate lawsuits against big oil companies

The city of Chicago is suing five of the world’s largest oil and gas companies and a trade group over their contributions to climate change, claiming they misled the public that their fossil fuel products contribute to extreme temperatures, flooding and other impacts on city residents.

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson’s administration filed a lawsuit Tuesday against Chevron, BP, Exxon Mobil, ConocoPhillips and Shell, the Chicago Sun-Times reported, claiming the oil giants not only misled the public, but also science and the climate crisis have been discredited.

“The evidence shows that the defendants intentionally misled Chicagoans about the climate change risks posed by their petroleum products. If left unchecked, climate change could have catastrophic consequences for our city, City Attorney Mary Richardson-Lowry said in a news release from the mayor’s office. “We filed this lawsuit to ensure that the defendants who benefited from the fraudulent campaign are held accountable for their actions.”

The lawsuit, filed in Cook County Circuit Court, also names the American Petroleum Institute as a defendant.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, city officials accused the trade group of working with oil companies to carry out disinformation campaigns despite knowing the reality of climate change.

“There is no justice without accountability,” Johnson said in a news release. “From the unprecedentedly poor air quality we experienced last summer to the basement flooding West Side residents endured, the impacts of this crisis are severe and costly. Surviving it is also very serious.” “That’s why we are committed to bringing these defendants to justice.”

The lawsuit alleges ten grounds to accuse the defendants of contributing to climate change, including negligence, recklessness, disorderly conduct, civil conspiracy and unjust enrichment.

Chicago wants oil companies to pay damages

The Chicago Sun-Time reports that the city is blaming oil companies for the cost of climate change adaptation infrastructure and property damage.

“These companies intentionally defrauded Chicago consumers in their relentless pursuit of profit,” Chicago City Councilman Matt Martin said in a City Council news release. “As a result of their actions, Chicago is experiencing extreme heat and rain, flooding, sewage flowing into Lake Michigan, damage to the city’s infrastructure, and more.

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All of this comes with enormous costs. But we have both the facts and the law on our side and are committed to passing these costs where they belong: to the companies whose fraud led us to the climate crisis.”

According to the Chicago Tribune, cities in Colorado, California, New York, Oregon, Mayland, South Carolina, Hawaii and Puerto Rico have filed similar lawsuits since 2017, according to a statement from the Center for Climate Integrity.

Since 1980, Chicagoans have experienced heat waves, warmer winters with less snow, more precipitation and less ice on Lake Michigan.

According to the lawsuit, the city plans to invest about $200 million to protect the most vulnerable areas, repair existing damage and build new infrastructure that can withstand harsher weather conditions.

“The impacts of climate change that Chicago is facing and will continue to face include more frequent and severe storms, floods, droughts, extreme heat and coastal erosion,” he says, which are being felt in every corner of the city and particularly in low-income sectors are the demand, according to Common Dreams.

According to the lawsuit, last year was the hottest year on record and the number of extremely hot days is expected to increase, according to the Chicago Tribune.

“Big Oil has lied to Americans for decades about the catastrophic climate risks of their products, and now Chicago and communities across the country are rightly saying they must pay for the damage they have caused,” Richard Wiles added in a statement. “As Chicago, the nation’s third-largest city, joins this fight, there is no doubt that we are witnessing a historic wave of litigation that could finally force Big Oil to take responsibility for the climate crisis they have deliberately provoked .”

With information from Ecowatch and Chicago Sun-Times

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