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California Counties Sue Big Oil for Sea Level Rise Damages

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Three California municipalities filed lawsuits Monday against 37 of the world's biggest fossil fuel companies, including Chevron, Exxon and Royal Dutch Shell. The legal challenges, brought by Marin and San Mateo counties and the city of Imperial Beach, allege that the companies knew about the harm of burning fossil fuels and therefore should pay for current and future damages to the municipalities due to climate change.


The suit also alleges the fossil fuel companies launched a "coordinated, multi-front effort" to discredit climate science and spread doubt.

"Sea level rise is here and we're experiencing it first hand in Marin, as roadways continually flood with king tides and storms," Marin County Supervisor Kate Sears said in a statement.

As reported by the Marin Independent Journal, Sears was asked if the lawsuits were inspired by litigation against the tobacco industry that state attorneys general initiated in the 1990s:

"You could certainly think of it that way, because a lot of what these fossil fuel companies did was modeled after what the tobacco companies did."

"Instead of taking steps to actually do something about the impact of their product," Sears said, "they launched this multimillion dollar lobbying campaign to discredit scientific evidence about climate change."

For a deeper dive:

AP, Marin Independent Journal, SF Gate, CBS SF, SF Weekly, San Diego Union Tribune. Commentary: Sabin Center, Michael Burger analysis

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