San Francisco and Oakland appeal to 9th Circuit: Hold fossil fuel companies accountable in state court for costs of climate change

Five major oil companies knew about the direct link between their products and the harmful and expensive impacts of climate change

SAN FRANCISCO (March 14, 2019) — San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera and Oakland City Attorney Barbara J. Parker released the following statements regarding their joint appellate brief filed March 13, 2019 in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
City Attorney Herrera statement:

“Fossil fuel companies have known for decades about the direct link between their products and climate change. They intentionally hid that information and misled the public to maximize their profits.

Right now, San Francisco and other coastal cities are paying the price of that deception. We have to spend billions of dollars on infrastructure, like seawalls and fortified storm water systems, to protect our businesses and residents.

These fossil fuel companies made money hand over fist, knowing they were putting our cities at risk. Now they want taxpayers to foot the bill while they walk away with the profits. Not on our watch. We’re going to do everything we can to ensure these companies pay to fix the problem they created. The bill has come due. This is a straightforward case under California public nuisance law. We filed this case in state court, and that’s where it should be decided.”

City Attorney Parker statement:

“This lawsuit is about holding the fossil fuel companies accountable for the costs of sea walls and other infrastructure necessary to protect Oakland and San Francisco from climate change – costs that are directly linked to the companies’ reckless and unlawful actions under California law.
These companies knew for decades that their products would cause severe and even catastrophic climate change, yet they spent the last 30 years telling the world that fossil fuel-driven climate change is a hoax. Our lawsuit forced the companies to admit in court that climate change is a reality, and is caused in large part by their products. But they nevertheless refuse to accept any responsibility for the damage they have caused and will cause to Oakland and other cities.
California law is clear: the fossil fuel companies are responsible for the costs of their ruinous actions. Companies cannot lie to their customers for decades about the dangers of their products and walk away with impunity. Our lawsuit presents valid claims under state law and deserves to be heard in the appropriate venue.”

Case Background

On Sept. 19, 2017, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera and Oakland City Attorney Barbara J. Parker filed separate lawsuits on behalf of the People of the State of California against the five largest investor-owned producers of fossil fuels in the world. The defendant companies are Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil Corp, BP and Royal Dutch Shell. The lawsuits ask the courts to hold these companies responsible for the costs of sea walls and other infrastructure necessary to protect San Francisco and Oakland from ongoing and future consequences of climate change and sea level rise. Those consequences are caused by defendants’ knowing and wrongful promotion of the expanded use of their products, deliberate concealment of their knowledge of the direct link between fossil-fuel combustion and the destructive effects of climate change on coastal communities, and their campaigns to discredit the growing body of scientific evidence documenting the catastrophic impacts of fossil-fuel-triggered climate change.
The defendant companies removed the cases from state to federal district court, where the judge denied Oakland’s and San Francisco’s motions to remand the case back to state court, and later granted the fossil fuel companies motions to dismiss. The district court entered final judgment on July 27, 2018. San Francisco and Oakland are appealing the district court’s orders denying the cities’ motions to remand and later granting defendants’ motions to dismiss. The case is now before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
The case is: City and County of San Francisco, et al., v. BP P.L.C. et al., Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal Case No. 18-16663, filed Aug. 24, 2018. More information on the case can be found on the City Attorney’s website at httpss://