Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Edit Krnanska, age 7, splashes and plays in floodwaters around the city dock in Annapolis, Maryland on July 23, 2018. (Photo: Marvin Joseph/<em>The Washington Post</em> via Getty Images)

Edit Krnanska, age 7, splashes and plays in floodwaters around the city dock in Annapolis, Maryland on July 23, 2018. (Photo: Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Coastal Annapolis Becomes 25th US Community to File Climate Suit That Aims to #MakePollutersPay

"This lawsuit shifts the costs back to where they belong, on those whose knowledge, deception, and pursuit of profits brought these dangers to our shores."

Jessica Corbett

Annapolis on Monday joined two dozen cities and states that have filed a "fast-growing wave of climate lawsuits" intended to make fossil fuel giants who spent decades lying about the impact of their products cover the costs of current and future damage.

Maryland's coastal capital city is targeting 26 dirty energy defendants, including oil and gas companies BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Shell as well as the American Petroleum Institute, an industry trade association. The suit—alleging public and private nuisance, negligence, failure to warn, trespass, and violations of Maryland's Consumer Protection Act—was filed in the state's Anne Arundel County Circuit Court.

"This lawsuit is all about accountability and determining who should pay the high costs of dealing with climate change," said Mayor Gavin Buckley. "Annapolis residents and businesses pay the price for the damage inflicted on our infrastructure due to increased flooding caused by sea level rise. Fossil fuel companies knew the danger, concealed their knowledge, and reaped the profits. It is time we held them accountable."

"If we are going to take care of our residents and honor our important history as a community, we need to be resilient in the face of climate change," the Democrat added. "Mitigating the impacts of climate change is expensive. We would not have to spend the kind of money we are forced to spend but for the actions of the fossil fuel industry. This lawsuit shifts the costs back to where they belong, on those whose knowledge, deception, and pursuit of profits brought these dangers to our shores."

According to the Capital Gazette's reporting on the new suit:

Anne Arundel County is also considering similar litigation against oil and gas companies, County Executive Steuart Pittman said Tuesday during his weekly media briefing. Pittman pointed to the county's 130 miles of coastline, parts of which are also at risk [due] to rising sea levels. The county will retain Sher Edling as well in their lawsuit.

"Same law firm, similar kind of case, but it's a separate case," he said.

Annapolis is the 25th community to initiate such a case, according to the city and the Center for Climate Integrity—whose executive director, Richard Wiles, welcomed the filing.

"With this lawsuit, Annapolis joins a growing number of communities across the United States that are turning to the courts to demand that Big Oil companies be held accountable for lying about their leading role in causing climate change," Wiles said. "Just like Big Tobacco—another industry that lied to the public to protect their profits—Big Oil should pay for the damage they knew their products would cause."

Previous climate liability lawsuits have been filed by the cities of Charleston, South Carolina, Hoboken, New Jersey, and Baltimore—Maryland's most populous metropolis—as well as Connecticut, Delaware, and Rhode Island, the Ocean State.

The Annapolis suit cites various studies from Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) about climate impacts on Annapolis along with reports about what #ExxonKnew—and tried to conceal from policymakers and the public—about the dangers of fossil fuels for decades.

Kathy Mulvey, accountability campaign director in the Climate and Energy Program at UCS, said the growing number of cases "shows that people and communities are fed up with having to shell out huge sums of money to address a crisis that these companies knowingly brought on."

As Mike Tidwell, executive director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, put it: "Big Oil knew their products would cause catastrophic climate damages decades ago. Instead of doing the right thing, they continued to lie about it while communities like Annapolis are paying the price."

"The city's leaders should be applauded for working to ensure that their residents aren't stuck with the bill to protect themselves from a problem that Big Oil knowingly caused," he said.

The lawsuit follows a pair of recent scientific studies that, as Common Dreams reported, bolstered alarm over experts' warnings about rising seas.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

EPA's Environmental Justice Office 'Won't Make Up for' Manchin Deal, Campaigner Says

"We've seen a lot of structural changes on environmental justice in the Biden, Obama and Clinton administrations, but we need to see the results," said Wes Gobar of the Movement for Black Lives.

Julia Conley ·

Historic Tropical Storm Fiona Sweeps Homes Into Ocean in Eastern Canada

"Climate change leads to warmer ocean water at higher latitudes," said one Canadian civil engineering professor. "A warmer future increases the probability that more intense storms will reach Canadian coasts."

Julia Conley ·

Federal Judge Allows 'Untenable' Plan to Send Juvenile Inmates to Angola Prison

"The move defies all common sense and best practices, and it will cause irrevocable damage to our youth and families," said one children's advocate.

Julia Conley ·

'Catastrophic': Arizona Judge Allows 1864 Abortion Ban to Go Into Effect

"No archaic law should dictate our reproductive freedom," said one rights advocate.

Julia Conley ·

US Progressives Express Solidarity With Iranian Protesters After Death of Mahsa Amini

"The right to choose belongs to us all, from hijabs to reproductive care," said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Julia Conley ·

Common Dreams Logo