Colorado Climate Lawsuit First to Hold Fossil Fuel Companies Accountable for Climate Impacts

Featured image: Suncor Energy owns the only oil refinery in Colorado. Max and Dee Bernt. CC-BY-2.0 / Flickr

     by Ken Kimmell / Union of Concerned Scientists

WASHINGTON—The city of Boulder and two counties in Colorado are suing ExxonMobil and Suncor Energy, Canada’s largest oil company, to hold them responsible for climate change-related damage to their communities. In the lawsuit filed today in Boulder district court, the plaintiffs—Boulder, Boulder County and San Miguel County—are seeking compensation for damage and adaptation costs resulting from extreme weather events linked to global warming.

New York City and eight coastal California cities and counties have filed similar lawsuits against ExxonMobil and other fossil fuel companies, but the Colorado lawsuit is the first by an inland municipality or county and covers a wider range of climate impacts, including droughts, wildfires, heat waves and flash floods. The complaint notes that more frequent and severe climate-related impacts will threaten Colorado infrastructure as well as its $5-billion winter sports industry and $41-billion agricultural sector.

Below is a statement by Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“Communities in Colorado and across the country are already doing what they can to curb their carbon emissions and are spending millions of dollars to adapt to a wide array of harms caused by global warming. Those costs will only multiply over the next few decades, and taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to foot the bill that the fossil fuel industry has knowingly run up over the last 40 years. Affected communities can cite ample scientific evidence showing that ExxonMobil and other fossil fuel companies have played an outsized role in making the problem worse.

“The federal government has abdicated leadership on the central challenge of our time, allowing the fossil fuel industry to continue to emit carbon pollution with no controls in place. It is not surprising that communities damaged by climate change are now seeking redress in state courts.”

For more information about the lawsuit, and why the Colorado communities targeted ExxonMobil and Suncor in particular, see this blog by Elliott Negin.

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