The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Mike Meno, Center for Climate Integrity,

Honolulu Wins Key Rulings in Lawsuit Against Big Oil

In a historic first that brings Honolulu’s case closer to trial, a Hawai‘i state court rejected three Big Oil motions to dismiss a climate damages case asserting nuisance and other tort claims.


In a major victory for efforts to hold fossil fuel companies accountable for the costs of climate change, a Hawai'i state court has rejected three separate motions to dismiss a lawsuit from the City and County of Honolulu that seeks to make eight major oil and gas companies pay for climate damages the polluters knowingly caused.

The rulings mark the first time that public nuisance and other tort claims to hold oil companies accountable for the costs of climate change have reached and survived motions to dismiss.

Richard Wiles, president of the Center for Climate Integrity, released the following statement:

"Honolulu's victory is a watershed moment for efforts to hold oil companies accountable and make them pay for the enormous costs that their lies and pollution have forced on taxpayers.

"Oil and gas companies will keep trying to escape accountability, but the people of Honolulu are now one step closer to putting these polluters on trial for their climate deception.

"This development should send a message to communities across the country that the legal case for making polluters pay for lying about fossil-fueled damages is strong and defensible. As climate costs for communities continue to soar, Big Oil companies must be held accountable to pay their fair share."

Background on Honolulu rulings and other lawsuits seeking to hold Big Oil companies accountable for deceiving the public about climate change:

The City and County of Honolulu filed its lawsuit against eight major oil and gas companies -- including ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell, and BP -- in 2020.

In recent weeks, Hawai'i First District Judge Jeffrey P. Crabtree rejected three motions that oil majors filed to dismiss the lawsuit -- for failure to state a claim, lack of personal jurisdiction, and one in which Chevron argued that Honolulu's lawsuit violated anti-SLAPP laws and therefore the company's First Amendment rights.

"This is an unprecedented case for any court, let alone a state court trial judge. But it is still a tort case," Judge Crabtree ruled. "It is based exclusively on state law causes of action."

A federal district court previously ruled that the lawsuit and a similar case from Maui County should proceed in state court, where they were filed. The court rejected a series of arguments that oil and gas defendants had made for the cases to be heard in federal court. The companies have appealed that ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which is considering similar arguments in climate accountability lawsuits brought by a group of California municipalities. Seven federal circuit courts in total will consider the proper venue for climate accountability lawsuits in 2022; in the first to rule, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered that a lawsuit from several Colorado communities should proceed in state court.

Last year, a Massachusetts court rejected ExxonMobil's motions to dismiss a consumer fraud lawsuit that the Commonwealth filed against the oil giant -- the first time one of the growing number of consumer protection suits state attorneys general have filed against oil majors cleared the same hurdle.

Since 2017, the attorneys general of Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Vermont, and the District of Columbia, as well as 20 city and county governments in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, and Washington, have filed lawsuits to hold major oil and gas companies accountable for deceiving the public about their products' role in climate change.

The Center for Climate Integrity (CCI) helps cities and states across the country hold corporate polluters accountable for the massive impacts of climate change.

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