City seeks billions in damages from largest fossil fuel companies

13 January, 2018, 01:27 | Author: Katrina Soto
  • NYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpi

The lawsuit against BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell seeks billions of dollars in damages for the city's past and future resiliency measures to protect citizens from the effects of climate change that it says the companies contributed to.

New York City is the latest - and largest - U.S. city to sue five big oil companies for billions in damages from the impacts of climate change, such as rising seas and extreme weather.

Also, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said that the city's $189 billion pension fund would divest itself of fossil fuels, although such a move would need to be approved by the funds' trustees.

New York's goal of eliminating about $5 billion in securities of almost 200 oil companies, would be among the biggest public pension divestments from fossil fuels to date, the city said in a statement.

Meanwhile, de Blasio and Comptroller Scott Stringer also announced that they will divest the city's five pension funds of roughly $5 billion in fossil fuel investments out of its total of $189 billion, which would make New York City the first major U.S. pension plan to do so.

"We're using this moment to send a message to the world", said New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer. As annual pension costs are rising to levels that had not been seen since the city faced an economic crisis in the 1970s, de Blasio's 2018 budget added $9.6 billion in payments to the pension funds.

Five years ago, Superstorm Sandy ripped through the most populous city in the United States, spreading destruction fueled by climate change. NY state has already announced it is exploring how to divest from fossil fuels. Just last week, the state of New York's comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli, said the public pension funds he controls have "no plans" to divest, citing his fiduciary responsibilities to pension holders.

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San Francisco, Oakland, and Santa Cruz, California, have filed similar lawsuits against oil companies.

"Our industry has led the way in reducing USA carbon emissions to their lowest levels in almost 25 years due to the increased use of clean and abundant natural gas to deliver reliable electricity, " API New York Executive Director Karen Moreau said in a statement. In fact, the number of proposals submitted by his office has nearly doubled over the past three years, vaulting the New York City Retirement Systems onto the top-10 list of most prolific sponsors of such resolutions anywhere in the country.

The lawsuit claims that the city is "spending billions of dollars" to protect coastlines from storm surges and rising sea levels, constructing barriers like sea walls, levees, and dunes around the island. "We know all too well that low-income communities and communities of color are disproportionately impacted by the greed of the fossil fuel industry and their contribution to climate change", Yeampierre said in a statement.

In 2015, New York's Attorney General Eric Schneiderman began investigating whether Exxon lied to the public and its investors about climate change's risks.

The Mayor's Office said in a statement that the cost of the so-called "resiliency" programme which includes improvements to aging "physical infrastructure, like coastal protections, upgraded water and sewer infrastructure, and heat mitigation, but also public health campaigns, for example to help protect residents from the effects of extreme heat" could cost the city upwards of $20bn in the near future.

NY charges in the lawsuit that it is "spending billions of dollars" to protect its coastlines, its infrastructure and its citizens from climate warming. "If somebody sues, they say, 'We'll squash.' Well, come on, people, try to squash us".

NY charges in the suit that it is "spending billions of dollars" to protect its coastlines, its infrastructure and its citizens from climate warming. ExxonMobil has instead reacted strongly to the claims, seeking in Texas court to depose California state officials and others involved in bringing the cases for "potential claims of abuse of process, civil conspiracy, and violation of ExxonMobil's civil rights".


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