New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio visits South Street Seaport

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio visits South Street Seaport as workers erect temporary flood barriers in preparation for potential flooding and a storm surge from Tropical Storm Isaias on August 3, 2020. The interlocking tubes, called Tiger Dams, are installed in areas that were heavily damaged from flooding during Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

(Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images)

NYC Sues Big Oil for 'Systematically and Intentionally Deceiving New Yorkers'

"Fossil fuel companies are continuing to spin a tangled web of lies about the deadly products they produce and sell after decades of misleading consumers."

As the world celebrated Earth Day, Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio and Corporation Counsel James E. Johnson on Thursday announced that New York City filed suit over Big Oil's decades of lies about fossil fuels and the climate emergency--just the latest addition to over two dozen similar cases launched by U.S. communities.

"My Earth Day message to Big Oil: See you in court."
--New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio

Like many of the other cases throughout the country, this lawsuit (pdf), filed in the Supreme Court of the State of New York in the County of New York, names fossil fuel giants BP, ExxonMobil, and Royal Dutch Shell as well as the American Petroleum Institute (API), an industry trade group, as defendants.

A statement announcing the suit accuses the defendants of "systematically and intentionally deceiving New Yorkers" in violation of the city's Consumer Protection Law. The complaint says they engaged in "deceptive trade practices" including "false and misleading greenwashing campaigns."

"Climate change is very much on the mind of New Yorkers. Overwhelmed with the idea that there is nothing they can do, consumers are looking for ways to help, including by spending money on fossil fuel alternatives and rewarding companies that seem green," Johnson explained.

"The defendants in our lawsuit have spent millions to persuade consumers that they present a clean, green choice. But they don't," he continued. "They say they are making meaningful investments to protect the environment. But they aren't. They would like us to believe they are good faith partners in the drive to reduce fossil fuel consumption. And we don't."

Asserting that "consumers are entitled to clear, accurate information about products they may choose," Johnson added that "we are bringing this litigation to protect that right. The defendants' deceptive practices are squarely prohibited by New York City law and cannot be allowed to continue."

Other key city officials joined in calling out the oil and gas majors, including Lorelei Salas of the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection, Dave A. Chokshi of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Ben Furnas of the Mayor's Office of Climate and Sustainability, and Jainey Bavishi of the Mayor's Office of Climate Resiliency.

"Fossil fuel companies are continuing to spin a tangled web of lies about the deadly products they produce and sell after decades of misleading consumers," said Bavishi. "There's undeniable scientific evidence that oil, gas, and coal are warming our planet and making climate disasters more frequent and more severe. We won't be able to protect New York City from climate change unless we stop these companies from lying to New Yorkers--and that's what we intend to do."

The mayor, who has gained some international attention for his work to address the climate emergency, reiterated a point he has often made--that "our children deserve to live in a world free from climate change, and we must do everything in our power to give them hope and stop climate change in its tracks."

"That means taking on some of the biggest polluting corporations for false advertising and greenwashing," de Blasio added, describing the behavior as illegal. "My Earth Day message to Big Oil: See you in court."

Richard Wiles, executive director of the Center for Climate Integrity (CCI), welcomed the filing in a statement.

"Oil and gas executives caused the climate crisis, then systematically lied about it. They need to be held accountable," he said. "Exxon, Shell, BP, and API have spent decades targeting policymakers and the public with climate disinformation. It's time for policymakers everywhere to realize that oil and gas executives will never be good faith partners in climate solutions."

The new lawsuit comes after a federal appeals court upheld the dismissal of an earlier New York City nuisance suit that aimed to hold some of the same companies accountable for the cost of climate damages they knowingly caused. That ruling by the 2nd Circuit Court contrasts with other recent federal court decisions.

Responding to NYC's latest move, API, ExxonMobil, and Shell all highlighted the dismissal, while a representative for BP declined to comment, according toCNN.

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