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Big Oil Will Answer Some Uncomfortable Questions In California Court

Paloma Aguirre walks toward the surf at Imperial Beach, Aug. 29, 2017.
Kris Arciaga
Paloma Aguirre walks toward the surf at Imperial Beach, Aug. 29, 2017.

Imperial Beach’s attempt to hold the oil industry accountable for climate change will move forward in state court.

The lawsuit calls on the fossil fuel industry to pay billions of dollars in damages for climate change impacts and it will stay in the California court system where it was originally filed.

The 9th circuit court of appeals rejected an oil industry request to move the action into federal court.

The lawsuit is brought by Imperial Beach and other California municipalities and affects California communities.

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“They need to pay up,” said Serge Dedina, Imperial Beach Mayor. “The fossil fuel industry has caused climate change, they’ve covered it up, and at the same time they covered it up, they shored up their own infrastructure because they knew sea level rise was coming.“

Imperial Beach is seeking more than $200 million in damages.

The decision to move ahead with the lawsuit could be uncomfortable for big oil companies named in the suit. It clears the way for discovery and depositions.

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“That’s something I think the oil companies would really like to avoid,” said Ann Carlson, UCLA environmental law professor. “I think they don’t want the plaintiffs and the businesses figuring out what they knew about climate change. When they knew it. What they did in response. What they did to fund the campaign to try to convince the American People that climate change wasn’t real.”

Carlson does some pro bono work for some of the municipalities suing the oil companies.

Richmond, Santa Cruz, Marin County, and San Mateo County are also plaintiffs in the suit. The appeals court ruling clears the way to begin the discovery process as well as the depositions of key players.

A win by the plaintiffs could set a precedent that other communities and states could use to justify similar lawsuits.

Big Oil Will Answer Some Uncomfortable Questions In California Court
Listen to this story by Erik Anderson.