The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Mike Meno,

Oregon County Sues Big Oil for Climate Damages Caused by Heat Dome, Wildfires

Portland, Oregon

Oregon’s most populous county today filed a first-of-its-kind lawsuit that seeks to hold major oil and gas companies accountable for decades of climate deception and pollution that fueled the deadly 2021 Pacific Northwest heat dome and other extreme weather events.

Multnomah County’s lawsuit, filed in Oregon state court, is part of a growing nationwide wave of climate accountability lawsuits that seek to make fossil fuel companies pay for climate damages they knowingly caused. It charges some of the world’s biggest climate polluters — including ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron, BP, ConocoPhillips, Koch Industries, and Total — as well as industry trade groups and consultants such as the American Petroleum Institute, Western States Petroleum Association, and McKinsey & Company, with defrauding the public for decades about the harm caused by the burning of fossil fuels.

It is the first such lawsuit filed in response to the 2021 heat dome, which killed 69 county residents, placed enormous strain on municipal resources, and scientists say “was virtually impossible without human-caused climate change.” Multnomah County is the first local government to sue oil majors for climate damages since the U.S. Supreme Court this spring declined requests from the fossil fuel industry to intervene in similar lawsuits in seven other states. Those cases are now advancing toward trial in state court.

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

“Multnomah County has joined the growing ranks of local governments that are standing up to Big Oil and fighting to make these polluters pay for the catastrophic damage they knowingly caused and lied about for decades. While other communities are seeking to hold Big Oil accountable for the costs of hurricanes, rising seas, and wildfires, Multnomah County is the first to demand that oil companies stand trial for fueling the devastating 2021 heat dome, which claimed lives and wreaked havoc across the Pacific Northwest. Communities should not be forced to pay the price for these catastrophic climate damages while the companies that caused the crisis perpetuate their lies and rake in record profits. The people of Multnomah County deserve their day in court to hold Big Oil accountable.”

Background on Climate Accountability Lawsuits Against Big Oil:

Since 2017, the attorneys general of Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont, and the District of Columbia, as well as municipal governments in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, and Puerto Rico have filed lawsuits to hold major oil and gas companies accountable for deceiving the public about their products’ role in climate change. Two cases — from Honolulu and Massachusetts — are already in pretrial discovery, with others close behind.

To date, six federal appeals courts — including the Ninth Circuit, which has jurisdiction over Oregon — and 14 federal district courts have unanimously ruled against the fossil fuel industry’s arguments to prevent these lawsuits from moving forward in state courts. In March, the U.S. Justice Department added its support for the communities. In April and May, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Big Oil petitions to consider the industry’s appeals of those lower court rulings.

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

(919) 307-6637