Baltimore is latest US city to file lawsuit against Big Oil

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BALTIMORE (AP) — Baltimore on Friday become the latest U.S. city to try and hold the world's biggest oil companies financially responsible for global warming, asserting it faces massive costs to effectively protect its residents, businesses and infrastructure from the escalating impacts of climate change.

The litigation by Baltimore, wrapped around a cove of the Chesapeake Bay, comes as skeptical judges elsewhere have been throwing out headline-generating complaints brought by other cities that sought to force big oil companies to pay for climate change adaptation.

On Thursday, a U.S. judge rejected New York City's lawsuit targeting oil companies, saying the issue must be addressed by Congress and the executive branch. Last month, another federal judge tossed litigation brought by San Francisco and neighboring Oakland that accused "Big Oil" of long knowing that fossil fuels posed serious risks to the environment, but still promoting them as environmentally responsible.

Baltimore, with some 60 miles of waterfront and a major port, is making an identical argument while seeking unspecified damages. But it has chosen to file its climate-change litigation in Baltimore Circuit Court, not a federal court.

Its effort targets 26 oil and gas companies for damages associated with sea level rise and other effects of climate change. Companies listed in Baltimore's complaint include ExxonMobil, Chevron and Shell.

When asked for comment about Baltimore's lawsuit, Exxon spokesman Scott Silvestri said that addressing "the risks of climate change" is "a serious global challenge that should be addressed by policymakers and not by the courts."

Baltimore Solicitor Andre Davis and Mayor Catherine Pugh issued forceful statements saying the mid-Atlantic city's people and businesses should not have to pay for climate change impacts they assert are the responsibility of Big Oil.

"For 50 years, these companies have known their products would cause rising seas and the other climate change-related problems facing Baltimore today," Davis said. "They could have warned us. They could have taken steps to minimize or avoid the damage. In fact, they had a responsibility to do both, but they didn't, and that's why we are taking them to court."

Pugh described the city of 615,000 inhabitants as being on the "front lines of climate change" and accused the fossil fuel industry of spending billions to "deceive, delay, distract and attack" those who've tried to hold them accountable.

The Center for Climate Integrity advocacy group applauded Baltimore's effort, describing it as "the next in a growing wave of climate liability lawsuits."

"The people of Baltimore deserve their day in court," said Richard Wiles, executive director of the Washington-based organization.


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