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The Courts Businesses The Almighty Buck

NYC Sues Oil Companies Over Climate Change (theguardian.com) 433

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: New York City is seeking to lead the assault on both climate change and the Trump administration with a plan to divest $5 billion from fossil fuels and sue the world's most powerful oil companies over their contribution to dangerous global warming. City officials have set a goal of divesting New York's $189 billion pension funds from fossil fuel companies within five years in what they say would be "among the most significant divestment efforts in the world to date." Currently, New York City's five pension funds have about $5 billion in fossil fuel investments. New York state has already announced it is exploring how to divest from fossil fuels. New York's Mayor, Bill de Blasio, said that the city is taking the five fossil fuel firms -- BP, Exxon Mobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Shell -- to federal court due to their contribution to climate change.

Court documents state that New York has suffered from flooding and erosion due to climate change and because of looming future threats it is seeking to "shift the costs of protecting the city from climate change impacts back on to the companies that have done nearly all they could to create this existential threat." The court filing claims that just 100 fossil fuel producers are responsible for nearly two-thirds of all greenhouse gas emissions since the industrial revolution, with the five targeted companies the largest contributors. The case will also point to evidence that firms such as Exxon knew of the impact of climate change for decades, only to downplay and even deny this in public.

NYC Sues Oil Companies Over Climate Change

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  • Political tax (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dan East ( 318230 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2018 @06:24PM (#55904601) Journal

    Tax dollars at work. Unless the armies of attorneys are doing the work for free out of the goodness of their hearts.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Gotta start somewhere.

      The decedents of John D Rockefeller have been applying pressure to ExxonMobil over their knowledge of climate change research from decades ago.

      The tide will eventually turn against the fossil companies, and if any of them have been covering up their knowledge of climate change, you can bet they'll get taken to cleaners sooner or later.

      The problem and its impacts are getting to the point where it cant be ignored.

      • Re: Political tax (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        There are many ways to offset the pollution.

        Why sue gas company instead of the car owner burning the gas?

        Make no sense, this is just further bizarre social justice. The polluters suing the people who have them the means to pollute.

        • Re: Political tax (Score:5, Insightful)

          by bobbied ( 2522392 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2018 @06:53PM (#55904807)

          There are many ways to offset the pollution.

          Why sue gas company instead of the car owner burning the gas?

          Make no sense, this is just further bizarre social justice. The polluters suing the people who have them the means to pollute.

          Because the Car owner is a voter and doesn't have that much money, but a big bad Oil Company doesn't vote and presumably has a lot of cash.

        • Re: Political tax (Score:4, Informative)

          by KeensMustard ( 655606 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2018 @11:03PM (#55905979)
          To be sued, there would have to be some sort wrongdoing or neglect that causes harm.

          Car Drivers contribute to the harm, but will also pay for that harm, as economies collapse and bill for for mitigating further climate change and the bill for adapting the inevitable change all become due. So we will pay anyway. But will Oil Companies pay their share? And what constitutes that share?

          Let's be clear: organisations and entities that actively seek or have sought to delay action on climate change have cost the rest of us dearly. In the case of oil companies, they knew the effects and cost of climate change form the beginning, but sought to mislead by creating the denialist movement, and sponsoring the likes of Judith Currie and Anthony Watts to be their mouthpiece. These originating entities, their mouthpieces (who at this point, are being deliberately misleading), and anyone else who profits from lying about climate should certainly be considered more culpable than someone who drives around minding their own business.

        • Re: Political tax (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Kiuas ( 1084567 ) on Thursday January 11, 2018 @06:09AM (#55906765)

          Why sue gas company instead of the car owner burning the gas?

          Because it's quite clear at this point that the oil companies have been doing their utmost to obfuscate the discussion on climate change and spread outright misinformation.

          Ask yourself this: why is the US the only developed country in which climate change is still a matter of 'debate'? Why is it that a matter of natural science that the experts of the relevant fields are in agreement about is being presented as an issue up for debate? Who benefits from there existing doubt over this? Who stands to lose if more strict actions are taken to control greenhouse gas emissions? The fossil fuel companies. The firms have a direct monetary incentive for there to be little or no environmental regulation. They also have vast wealth and hence vast lobbying power which they have used and are using to promote views and politicians that are entirely contrary to well understood science.

          Tobacco companies a few decades past were doing the exact same deal and promoting false science to try and obfuscate the link between smoking and cancer, even though from internal documents it's quite clear that they were aware of the issue, and were actively promoting a view they knew to be false for their own economic benefit. This is no different. In fact a lot of the marketing companies that were in charge of the diversion tactics of the tobacco companies have since transitioned into the fossil fuel business. It's quite easy to do: you set up different 'think thanks' with environmentally friendly names, and you hire some scientists, often not even from relevant fields who're willing to shill for you. Then you produce non-peer reviewed pseudo-science papers on the matter. Then you drag these shills on tv and elsewhere into the media to advertise how there really is no problem and all the academics are just wrong. Once you've established enough doubt among the general public about the matter (I mean after all there was a 'scientist' on tv saying he doesn't think it's happening, so clearly it can't be settled right?) you spend some hundred or so million a year lobbying politicians to oppose any regulation on your industry. The fact that this strategy still works as well as it did in the past shows how easy it is to fool the majority of people who do not understand how science works.

          If I manufacture a product the use of which does harm not just to me, but the entire ecosystem of the planet and all civilizations, and I then knowingly and willingly try to misrepresent or hide the damage it's doing to further my own profit, that's deceitful and damaging to everyone. and it's definitely something that one should get sued over.

      • Re: Political tax (Score:4, Interesting)

        by ArmoredDragon ( 3450605 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2018 @10:31PM (#55905867)

        Soo... what do you expect then? An immediate halt to the world's oil supply? That would be the overnight death of NYC. And if we never had it to begin with, we'd all be shitting in outhouses right now while the rest of the world modernized, while New York is stuffed with 5 tons of horse shit per 10 square feet.

        That's just a lawsuit that will never be won. Nonetheless, how much will their legal team cost?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by houghi ( 78078 )

          A nice start would be if they stop funding the FUD about climate change. If that would not have taken place, we would be much, much further with solving the problems.

      • by Dog-Cow ( 21281 )

        There's no law against hastening or causing climate change.

    • Re:Political tax (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2018 @06:38PM (#55904701) Homepage

      Obviously, we should only spend money to stop poor criminals, because it is too expensive it to go after the rich ones.

      If you want to complain about someone being innocent, do so.

      Right now, all you are doing is telling the world how easy it is to bribe you.

      • To be fair, the oil companies are rich because people want to continue buying their oil to drive their cars and heat their houses. They use that money to buy political influence, suppress research and do other evil things to continue supplying that demand. That doesn't morally excuse their evil deeds or mean we can't go after them, but it's the continued demand for their product that enables them to fight back so hard and effectively.

        In other words, the morality of what they do and the conditions that enabl

        • Re: Political tax (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Actually, they're rich because they got cheap access to public resources and haven't had to pay for any of the externalities.

        • Re:Political tax (Score:5, Interesting)

          by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2018 @08:05PM (#55905201) Homepage

          For most wealthy companies, you would be right. But we aren't talking about most wealthy companies, we are talking about the descendants of J.D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil.

          As such, they are not rich because people want to use their product. They are rich because J.D. Rockefeller committed more crimes than pretty much any other 1% ever.

          He made secret deals with railroads to prevent them from shipping other companies oil. He spied on his competitors, passing out bribes left and right. When congress tried to break up his illegal monopoly, he hid from the subpoena for YEARS. They illegally bought up cheap public light rail and shut them down, replacing it with more expensive, oil burning buses.

          Any other company, I would say, yes, being rich does not mean you are guilty. Most wealthy people are not evil. But the oil companies have a history just as bad, if not worse, than big tobacco.

          • In no way do I think Rockefeller or anyone else are "not guilty". I just think the most productive and promising way to fight them is to come up with better alternatives so as to reduce the demand for their products. In the long run, those crimes they commit don't do them any good if it doesn't get them access to a product that people want.

            We aren't going to make a better future by dragging them down, we are going to make a better future by making them obsolete.

            • by SirSlud ( 67381 )

              They very issue is they have such undue influence that we have better alternatives, but they're difficult to implement under the policy influence these companies have. And really its disingenuous to suggest we can't do both at the same time. "Hey, NYC politicians and lawers, go work on energy saving technology and federal policy, nobody else is doing it!" (I guess that last one is kinda true at the federal level at the moment, see my first point.)

    • And TAX BREAKS to these same oil and gas companies while they push FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) and disinformation and attack real science is OK?
      please....
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Unless the armies of attorneys are doing the work for free out of the goodness of their hearts.

      The attorneys hired by de Blasio gave him campaign contributions . . . out of the goodness of their hearts.

      Now de Blasio is kicking some of that back . . . out of the goodness of his heart.

      The whole thing is political posing, just like the folks in Congress with their Net Neutrality impotent proposals.

      "Let's have a vote to call the repeal of Net Neutrality, dirty, dirty, dirty, nasty, nasty, nasty!"

    • Not really. You're already paying carbon taxes. You're just not aware that they're included in the total price to buy or sell goods and services to many states (with carbon taxes), countries (with carbon taxes), and provinces (with carbon taxes).

      Most trade agreements allow you to deduct the carbon taxes assessed locally first from the total carbon taxes assessed in the country you buy/sell to, so in practice, you reduce the carbon taxes you pay the foreign government, other state, or other province and the

    • This is publicity whoring for Cuomo. He'll be announcing his candidacy for President in a few weeks. Expect plenty more of the same over the next couple of years.

    • Tax dollars at work. Unless the armies of attorneys are doing the work for free out of the goodness of their hearts.

      New York State has no business commenting on carbon emissions until it opens Shoreham.

  • Alternative (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 10, 2018 @06:26PM (#55904615)

    Perhaps we should hold those burning fossil fuels responsible for doing so. The largest city in the world's worst polluting nation would be a good start. I propose that we sue New York City for their contributions to climate change.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      That's kind of what I was thinking. These idiots are suing the oil companies and yet they are some of the biggest contributors to pollution while they happily use oil to power all of their shit.

      Absolutely fucking ridiculous. They can't blame someone for wrongdoing while they themselves benefited from the use of their products without a care in the world until now.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Thats you and I buddy, and its not like we have much of an alternative to driving gasoline powered cars, using electricity generated from coal, having stuff shipped via air freight, and heating homes with low grade diesel aka "heating oil" or natural gas.

    • Re:Alternative (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bobbied ( 2522392 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2018 @06:40PM (#55904719)

      Perhaps we should hold those burning fossil fuels responsible for doing so. The largest city in the world's worst polluting nation would be a good start. I propose that we sue New York City for their contributions to climate change.

      I say we ban the import of Fossil fuels into the city and disconnect them from the carbon powered Electrical grid... Let them make due with bio-fuel, solar panels and windmills.

    • Re:Alternative (Score:4, Insightful)

      by JoshuaZ ( 1134087 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2018 @08:44PM (#55905381) Homepage
      People in cities use less energy per a capita than people in suburbs or rural areas https://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/translating-uncle-sam/stories/urban-or-rural-which-is-more-energy-efficient [mnn.com] and NYC is one of the most energy efficient of major cities by multiple metrics http://edition.cnn.com/2007/TECH/12/31/eco.cities/ [cnn.com].
    • by Tom ( 822 )

      You missed the point.

      We all live in the real world, today, and have to operate within those parameters. NYC is trying to do that, and the addition of shifting pension fund money around shows that they realize they are contributing to the problem and are taking steps to change that.

      The energy companies, on the other hand, knew about climate change and the role of fossil fuels half a century ago, and what did they do about it? Try to bury the problem.

      Same as the tobacco industry did.

      Only fair if they face the

  • Like cases against tobacco companies, this one will take 50 years or more.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by rmdingler ( 1955220 )
      I don't know if your timeline estimation is accurate, but it doesn't smell like the tobacco lawsuits.

      Governors using the courts and statutes for the extortion of for-profit corporations via lawsuit and fines... it does resemble a revenue stream used by some European nations, though they seem to specialize in taxing non-domestic companies.

      I'm without a dog in the fight, and reluctant to pick one, but; at the very least, this smacks of grandstanding, and at its worst interpretation, it is a shameless money g

      • I'm without a dog in the fight, and reluctant to pick one, but; at the very least, this smacks of grandstanding, and at its worst interpretation, it is a shameless money grab by a taxing entity run amok.

        Yeah, I think the fact that it was filed by a huge class action law firm tells the story pretty clearly. They've probably taken it on contingency and are looking for a huge payday. Which will of course fix everything they claim to be wrong.

        • I'm without a dog in the fight, and reluctant to pick one, but; at the very least, this smacks of grandstanding, and at its worst interpretation, it is a shameless money grab by a taxing entity run amok.

          Yeah, I think the fact that it was filed by a huge class action law firm tells the story pretty clearly. They've probably taken it on contingency and are looking for a huge payday. Which will of course fix everything they claim to be wrong.

          Ah yes... the theoretical right of the least important and influential to redress the wrongs of society in court in David vs. Goliath fashion.

          If only we lived in a society where the lawsuits were driven by a desire to fix the wrongs, rather than simply profit from them. But then, we'd need to fill the Congress with farmers, convenience store clerks, and IT workers instead of lawyers.

  • To combust fossil fuels, or not combust fossil fuels? That is the question— Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to cherish The Dollars and cents of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of electrical Tesla cars, And, by opposing, end them? To die, to sleep— No more—and by a sleep to say we end The heartache and the thousand natural shocks That environmentalism is heir to—’tis a consummation Devoutly to be wished! To die, to sleep. To sleep, perchance to make profi
  • by h8sg8s ( 559966 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2018 @06:32PM (#55904661)

    This is what you do when what you really want is an "oil tax" but know your already heavily-taxed citizens wouldn't stand for it. NYC would have a leg to stand on if, before filing a lawsuit, they banned all internal combustion cars in the city as well as turning off all petrochemical heating in the and all electricity from petrochemical sources. Until then, this is just a joke.

    • Agreed, this is basically a joke, until NYC banns the import f all fossil fuels and energy sources which are derived from fossil fuels including electricity.

      Have fun pushing the subway train in the dark and staying warm though the winter.

      • They actually can't do that. The federal government has jurisdiction over interstate commerce.

        • Yea I know.. I was telling the CITY to do this, they are the ones who filed suit. Until they do, I don't figure they are actually serious about the damage fossil fuels they are claiming and are just looking for a payday.

          Surely they can regulate the importation and sale of fossil fuels within their borders and sever any electrical connections on their own. Show us they are serious about this and I'll give them credit for being consistent... Stupid, but consistent.

          • Surely they can regulate the importation ... and sever any electrical connections

            No and no. What part of "States don't have the power to regulate interstate commerce" for you not understand?

            You could regulate the sale - for example, taxing it. But Jersey is a few miles away. People only have to drive across the state line to fill up. Yeah, that will get frustrating real quick, but consumers don't have a more viable alternative just yet.

  • Interesting idea.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by The Grim Reefer ( 1162755 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2018 @06:36PM (#55904683)

    York City's five pension funds have about $5 billion in fossil fuel investments.

    So if NYC wins, do they also have to take responsibility for being a a co-conspirator? They did help the oil companies by financing what they were doing with $5 billion in just the pension funds alone. What other investments do/did they have with oil and coal I wonder? How much fossil fuel was, and still is used by NYC? Are they going to shut down all of the ports that oil burning ships dock at? What about all of the freight by diesel truck and trains? How about all of the stock brokers on Wall Street that deal with investments in oil and coal? They should go after them too.

    I'm all for being responsible for the environment, but this is just stupid.

    • Exactly; should the utilities be able to claw back dividends paid to the pension funds?!

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by quantaman ( 517394 )

      York City's five pension funds have about $5 billion in fossil fuel investments.

      So if NYC wins, do they also have to take responsibility for being a a co-conspirator? They did help the oil companies by financing what they were doing with $5 billion in just the pension funds alone. What other investments do/did they have with oil and coal I wonder? How much fossil fuel was, and still is used by NYC? Are they going to shut down all of the ports that oil burning ships dock at? What about all of the freight by diesel truck and trains? How about all of the stock brokers on Wall Street that deal with investments in oil and coal? They should go after them too.

      I'm all for being responsible for the environment, but this is just stupid.

      I actually think it has a shot.

      Not because the Oil Companies emitted fossil fuels in the past, or because they continue to emit them now, but because of the cover up.

      I think the central claims would be:
      1) Exxon Mobil, BP, etc all knew that global warming was real and that their product could incur major costs on coastal cities like NYC.
      2) They conspired to cover up and mislead the public about #1.

      If those two facts are true I think they do deserve to pay damages.

      The only awkward bit is the fact that a class

      • by matthewd ( 59896 )

        And if they hadn't "covered it up" (going back to the 70's/80's, if I remember the claims correctly), what action would the cities have taken to mitigate the release of CO2?

        If cities feel duped by oil companies that their product is destroying the environment and poses an existential threat, what would they have done differently had they known?

        Ban cars, trucks, gasoline, oil, plastics and chemicals produced from crude oil?

        IANAL and IANAJ, but I should think a logical requirement for the cities to prevail sh

        • And if they hadn't "covered it up" (going back to the 70's/80's, if I remember the claims correctly), what action would the cities have taken to mitigate the release of CO2?

          Possibly nothing.

          The point isn't that cities specifically would have done X if Oil Companies hadn't deceived them about climate change.

          The point is the product produced by Oil Companies harms cities, and the Oil Companies covered up that harm.

          IANAL and IANAJ, but I should think a logical requirement for the cities to prevail should be for the cities to demonstrate there is some reasonable action that they would have taken had this "fraud" not been committed.

          IANAL either but the cities should only need to show that if not for the fraud then someone would have taken action to reduce the damages.

          And that's a trivial bar to clear. Non-carbon energy sources were around for this entire period and would have received much more i

    • by matthewd ( 59896 )

      In addition, check NYC bond offerings. Have they disclosed the known risks of climate change when they need to borrow money? Or are they hiding these risks from investors and committing some financial fraud?

      If the known risks of climate change were disclosed surely borrowing costs would be higher.

    • by poptix ( 78287 )

      Precisely this.

      You can't fund something, profit from it, then sue the company you funded for doing their job in the legally mandated most fiscally responsible and (legally) profitable way of doing so for more profit.

      This is all about politicians trying to make news. The sad thing is that many of the "oil companies" (energy companies) have been investing in clean energy now that it's viable without subsidies, this will probably cause funds to be diverted from that.

  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2018 @06:40PM (#55904717)

    Wait, you guys did WHAT with that oil we sold you? Do you know how hard that crap is to get out of the ground and make nice and smooth?

    Well I guess if you can't care for oil properly that means *no more oil for YOU*.

    • although staling until a favorable administration was in place did.
  • Gather 'round kids, watch the shills from both sides duke it out for our entertainment!

  • I assume since NYC is suing the oil companies, none of the politicians have driven a car, ridden a bus or used any kind of electricity that was produced from anything but clean energy.

    Also, please make sure those windmills and solar panels were produced and delivered using clean-energy.

    Don't get me wrong, I buy into clean energy, but come on...
  • Ok, stop selling any fuel within NYC. Lets stop this global warming. Lets see how much people want global warming when there is no gas to be found in NYC?
  • Good I hope they take the planet destroying a*holes to the cleaners. That industry has known since 1959 when that left wing loon Edward Teller told them that their product was likely to lead to climate change https://www.theguardian.com/en... [theguardian.com] and by implication millions of deaths and the destruction of large parts of the planet. Their response - carry on selling the poison.

    • actually natural gas fired generators their biggest source for electrical power (nuclear # 2 by the way) ; but yeah the city was built and exists now because of fossil fuel.

      hypocrites and idiots with no conception of how their world works.

      sure, it's great to be going to non-polluting sources of energy but that's effort they have to make.

  • Will these big companies be able to sue NYC for the profits it had over the years thanks to technological development driven by these companies or will the residents be able to sue for the taxes NYC collected all these years without tending to the well-known erosion and flooding issues that have targeted the city for the last 40 years.

    The city allowed significant development below the sea level and its land has been well known to be sinking for centuries, you can find news reports back to the 1820's about t

  • Other than all the other obvious social engineering comments about going after oil companies rather than people who burn the fuel, I'm also annoyed by the whole divestiture thing.

    Who are the oil companies? The guys on the oil rigs? The executives? Or the stockholders? If New York has all these funds that are invested in petroleum companies, wouldn't it make them the owners?

    Selling your stock before a big lawsuit ? If they are the owners of the companies they are suing, I'd love to see a court insist the

  • by MobyDisk ( 75490 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2018 @09:05PM (#55905513) Homepage

    This sounds like politics not law. I doubt they cannot be liable for environmental damages if they were following the environmental regulations. If anything, NYC is liable for not setting sufficient environmental laws to prevent the damage. There is definitely precedent for regulatory bodies to be sued if they knew their regulations were not sufficient. This sounds similar to how a boat captain cannot be sued for mishaps so long as the ship was up to standards and the captain didn't do anything negligent. Basically: If you followed the regulations, you are not liable. Even stranger is that, of course, since CO2 build-up in NYC can happen because of fossil fuels burnt in London, the entire case is completely out the window.

    As for the whole divestment thing, that's done all the time and isn't even newsworthy. That's the other reason I suspect someone is just starting an early re-election campaign.

  • NYC, if you're seriously concerned about global warming due to use of fossil fuels, disconnect all the electric lines going into the city if the power source is driven by fossil fuels, then prevent the sale, use, or transportation of fossil fuels within the city. If you don't stop the consumption of fossil fuels, then you are nothing but slimy hypocrites trying to engender favorable press coverage for political advantage.
  • I feel there are questionable elements to the current research on man induced climate change (not to mention there are sooo many other forms of pollution that are way worse that we really need to stop. There's a toxic lake in China where byproduced are dumped from manufacturing all of our cheap crap).

    However, I'm for this if they use the god damn money to fix their crumbling rail infrastructure. Penn Station needs to be completely renovated, and the subways are in desperate need of maintenance. But knowing

  • Just outlaw all gasoline and diesel sales in New York State. Problem solved. It would fix that, and them.

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