Multnomah County, Oregon, Sues Oil Giants for $50 Billion Over Climate Change
Multnomah County, Oregon, announced that it has filed a lawsuit in Oregon Circuit Court against Shell Plc, Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp., and Exxon.
According to Nasa, a staggering 97% of actively publishing climate scientists from around the world agree that global warming and climate change not only exist, but also are man-made. Because of this overwhelming consensus, we’ve already seen certain cities and states begin to take action in hopes to reduce their carbon footprint. What about the companies that have the largest impact, though?
Climate change denialism is something widespread, despite the conclusion from well-learned people from around the world. Many of the falsehoods you see about climate change are weaved by the people who help to contribute to climate change and benefit from it. I’m talking about fossil fuel companies, and more specifically, oil companies like Exxon, Shell, and Chevron. There is a consistent record of these companies trying to downplay their damage to the environment, even funding studies that work to disprove climate change. Almost all misinformation comes from these companies, trying as hard as they can to maintain profits while people suffer from it, and even die, which is what today’s subject centers around. Will they face any repercussions?
Well, one Oregon county is trying to take a stab at serving several oil giants a bit of justice in court. On Thursday, Multnomah County, Oregon, announced that it has filed a lawsuit in Oregon Circuit Court against these companies, which include Shell Plc, Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp., and Exxon. It isn’t the first, US municipality, however, and it may not be the last. Many other cities, states, and counties have done the same. The last person the challenge these companies in court was the state of New Jersey, who filed a complaint in October of 2022.
The allegations are over companies deceiving their consumers over the dangers fossil fuel poses to the environment, essentially claiming that these companies have been downplaying the harm their product can have on the environment. The lawsuit specifically states that the companies have been misleading the public “with pseudo-science, fabricated doubt, and a well-funded, sustained public relations campaign to promote their spin.”
It’s not just the oil companies that are being hit in this lawsuit, either. Another name found in the suit is the McKinsey consulting firm, a firm that advises many of the major oil companies about their advertising. This firm, allegedly, specialized in advising these companies about how to downplay or straight up deny the link between greenhouse gasses and the extreme weather we’ve seen as of late. As said before, the scientific consensus is that there is a direct link between the two.
Multnomah County is using the Oregon state tort law in this case, arguing for negligence and fraud. Their main citation, and what they truly aim to make these companies liable for, is the 2021 Pacific Northwest heat dome.
If you’re not familiar, the heat dome had caused temperatures to rise to around 120 F. It affected many people, mainly in Canada, Washington, and Oregon, where many died. 685 deaths were confirmed in Canada, making it the deadliest weather event in Canadian history. In the US, there are 229 confirmed deaths, with 72 being in Multnomah County alone. The overwhelming consensus is that this heat wave was caused by climate change, so for Multnomah County, it’s personal.
This is a statement pulled from the lawsuit detailing the county’s reasoning.
“The heat dome was a direct and foreseeable consequence of the Defendants’ decision to sell as many fossil fuel products over the last six decades as they could and to lie to the County, the public, and the scientific community about the catastrophic harm that pollution from those products into the Earth’s and the County’s atmosphere would cause.”
The Multnomah County case is looking for $50 million in damages, $1.5 billion in future damages, and a staggering $50 billion in an abatement model in order to “weatherproof” Oregon, as well as its healthcare system. These last two are in preparation for future heatwaves, since the damage is already done.
Those on the other end of the legal challenge simply aren’t having it, though, as yet another lawsuit is tossed at their doorsteps.
When asked to make a statement about the situation, a spokesperson at Exxon said,
“Suits like these continue to waste time, resources and do nothing to address climate change. This action has no impact on our intention to invest billions of dollars to leading the way in a thoughtful energy transition that takes the world to net zero carbon emissions.”
The counsel of Chevron Corp. als weighed in.
“The federal Constitution bars these novel, baseless claims that target one industry and group of companies engaged in lawful activity that provides tremendous benefits to society.”
Multnomah remains optimistic about the lawsuit, including their outside counsel, Roger Worthington, who is a partner at Worthington & Carson.
“The leadership of Multnomah County is utilizing irrefutable climate science to hold corporate polluters accountable for their role in causing a discreet and disastrous event, as well as recent wildfires,” Worthington had said in a statement. “We will show that fossil fuel-induced global warming is already costing Oregonians lives.”
So where do things go from here? Well for one, this lawsuit is most likely to be removed by companies to federal courts, where they can begin the proceedings to see if this case can be heard on a state bench. From there, it will either get shot down or be allowed a hearing on a state bench, which would already be a massive milestone forward for Multnomah County, as well as all other states, cities, and counties that have also filed against these companies. We just need to wait and see.
If this trend continues and more cities, and especially states, begin to pile on, eventually something will crack. Even if this case is dismissed, another will be laid down eventually. Don’t be surprised if you eventually see an article from us detailing the events of a successful lawsuit in the name of environmental preservation.