HomePacific IslanderMaui sues big oil companies for climate change

Maui sues big oil companies for climate change

Maui; Photo by noaverse via Flickr Creative Commons

This week, Maui County sued 20 fossil fuel companies, demanding compensation for the increasing costs of climate change, Hawaii News Now reports.

The lawsuit states companies like ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell, and ConocoPhillips have known for over 50 years about their production of dangerous greenhouse gases and planet-harming pollution. But this was hidden from the public for the sake of the companies’ own financial gains.

“Defendants [knew] greenhouse gas pollution from their fossil fuel products [have] significant adverse impacts on the Earth’s climate and sea levels,” the lawsuit said, according to Inside Climate News. “Defendants concealed the dangers, promoted false and misleading information, sought to undermine public support for greenhouse gas regulation, and engaged in massive campaigns to promote the ever-increasing use of their products at ever-greater volumes.”

The lawsuit states climate change accelerated by these companies has already caused over $3.2 billion in damages to over 3,000 acres of land. This has hurt the island’s natural environment, endangered species, the economy and many Native Hawaiian locals’ ways of living. While Exxon hasn’t responded to the lawsuit, Chevron spokesperson Sean Comey said lawsuits like these “seek to punish companies that deliver affordable, reliable energy,” Inside Climate News reports.

But many Maui locals aren’t convinced. According to an official press release by Maui County, Mayor Michael Victorino said, “We see the impacts of climate change every day.. Worsening coastal erosion threatens shoreline structures, miles of coastal roads and infrastructure. Maui County taxpayers should not be left to bear the staggering costs of climate change impacts. We are seeking relief in state court to hold Big Oil companies accountable for their decades-long disinformation campaign to keep the public in the dark over the climate crisis.”

If these cases are heard in state court, this could be good news for Maui locals and environmental activists across the islands. Inside Climate News reports that this is because local courts are not “constrained by prevailing federal laws” that strongly impede climate-related lawsuits.

Meanwhile, the Big Oil industries are working for the cases to be heard in federal courts where, Inside Climate News reports, “the law gives them the upper hand to argue climate change remedies are policy issues best left to Congress, not the courts.” This is an argument that federal courts have ruled in favor of in the past.

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