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.
BREAKING: Annapolis, Maryland just filed a lawsuit against the world’s largest oil companies for deceiving the public about climate change.
— 350 dot org (@350) February 23, 2021
"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.
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"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."
BREAKING: City of Annapolis, MD brings #climateaccountability lawsuit against 26 fossil fuel defendants including American Petroleum Institute. First major new #climatelawsuit filed in 2021, first by a state capital, & 2nd by a city in #Maryland! #climatelitigation pic.twitter.com/gpI4a2veqO
— Dana Drugmand (@Dana_Drugmand) February 23, 2021
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."
Rising seas and flooding are costing the city of Annapolis’s tourism industry hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses each year. Polluters made this mess — and polluters should pay to clean it up. #MakePollutersPay https://t.co/oCKnOCVNi0 pic.twitter.com/n6LSbW2x9H
— Center for Climate Integrity (@climatecosts) February 23, 2021
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.