‘Fossil Fuel Companies Knew’: Honolulu Files Lawsuit Over Climate Impacts
By Dana Drugmand
Hawaii has officially joined the fight to hold fossil fuel companies accountable for the climate crisis. On Monday the City of Honolulu filed a lawsuit against 10 oil and gas companies, seeking monetary damages to help pay for costs associated with climate impacts like sea level rise and flooding.
The lawsuit, filed in Hawaii state court, is based on claims of nuisance, failure to warn, and trespass and alleges that the climate impacts facing the city stem from the oil companies' decades-long campaign to mislead policymakers and the public on the dangers of fossil fuels.
"For decades and decades the fossil fuel companies knew that the products they were selling would have tremendous damaging economic impacts for local governments, cities, and counties that our taxpayers are going to be forced to bear," Honolulu's chief resilience officer Josh Stanbro said at a press briefing outside the courthouse on Monday. "Instead of disclosing that information, they covered up the information, they promoted science that wasn't sound, and in the process have sowed confusion with the public, with regulators, and with local governments."
"This case is very similar to Big Tobacco lying about their products, as well as the pharmaceutical companies pushing an opioid epidemic," added Council Budget Chair Joey Manahan.
Over a dozen cities, counties, and states across the country have filed climate liability lawsuits against fossil fuel producers. Two federal judges have dismissed cases brought by Oakland/San Francisco and by New York City; the cities are appealing those decisions. Four other federal judges have sent climate cases brought by Rhode Island, Baltimore, and communities in Colorado and California back to state court where they were originally filed. The fossil fuel companies want the cases in federal court where they believe they have an easier path to dismissal.
Honolulu now joins these communities that are turning to the courts to hold Big Oil accountable.
"This case that was filed this morning is really about accountability," said Stanbro. "Someone has to hold accountable corporations that color outside the lines and don't play by the rules. The place to hold them accountable is in court."
Honolulu is already experiencing climate impacts including extreme heat and precipitation, severe storms and flooding, and coastal erosion. Last year was the hottest year on record for the city, and the warming trend is expected to continue. As cited in the complaint, Honolulu has already lost 25 percent of its beaches due to erosion and rising sea levels. And, as Department of Facility Maintenance Director Ross Sasamura mentioned during the press briefing, the city experiences nuisance flooding caused by rising seas' extreme tidal influence.
"It's going to cost us billions to make our island more resilient," Manahan said during the briefing. "Sea level rise and climate change pose a great threat to our way of life, and our longstanding relationship with our island and our oceans."
The state has estimated that elevating roads alone could cost $15 billion. The island of Oahu has $12.9 billion in private property that is vulnerable to sea level rise.
"The costs are in the billions, and those billions should come from the profits, the billions and billions of dollars in profits that have been gained from the oil corporations," Stanbro said.
Calling climate liability lawsuits a "fringe litigation movement," Phil Goldberg, counsel for the Manufacturers' Accountability Project, a project of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), had critical words for Honolulu in a statement: "Honolulu's decision to move forward with litigation ignores the reality that these lawsuits have nothing to do with fighting climate change and will lead only to increased costs for local residents." NAM has received more than a million dollars from the oil industry trade group the American Petroleum Institute.
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell initially announced the city's intent to sue oil companies in November 2019, on the heels of an announcement by Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino to do the same. The Maui County Council recently voted to approve Victorino's resolution to file a lawsuit, and Maui is expected to file its lawsuit soon.
The companies named as defendants in Honolulu's lawsuit include BP, BHP Group, Aloha Petroleum, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Phillips 66, ExxonMobil, Marathon Petroleum, Royal Dutch Shell, and Sunoco.
Reposted with permission from DeSmog.
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People across New England witnessed a dramatic celestial event Sunday night.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By David Reichmuth
Over the last month, I've seen a number of opinion articles attacking electric vehicles (EVs). Sadly, this comes as no surprise: now that the Biden administration is introducing federal policies to accelerate the roll out of electric vehicles, we were bound to see a reaction from those that oppose reducing climate changing emissions and petroleum use.
The majority of EVs sold in 2020 were models with a starting price (Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price) under $40,000 and only a fifth of models had a starting price over $60,000.
On Friday, China set out an economic blueprint for the next five years, which was expected to substantiate the goal set out last fall by President Xi Jinping for the country to reach net-zero emissions before 2060 and hit peak emissions by 2030.
The Great Trail in Canada is recognized as the world's longest recreational trail for hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing. Created by the Trans Canada Trail (TCT) and various partners, The Great Trail consists of a series of smaller, interconnected routes that stretch from St. John's to Vancouver and even into the Yukon and Northwest Territories. It took nearly 25 years to connect the 27,000 kilometers of greenway in ways that were safe and accessible to hikers. Now, thanks to a new partnership with the Canadian Paralympic Committee and AccessNow, the TCT is increasing accessibility throughout The Great Trail for people with disabilities.
Trans Canada Trail and AccessNow partnership for AccessOutdoors / Trails for All project. Mapping day at Stanley Park Seawall in Vancouver, British Columbia with Richard Peter. Alexa Fernando<p>This partnership also comes at a time when access to outdoor recreation is more important to Canadian citizens than ever. <a href="https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/200527/dq200527b-eng.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Studies from the spring of 2020</a> indicate that Canadian's <a href="https://www.bnnbloomberg.ca/moneytalk-mental-health-during-covid-19-1.1567633" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">mental health has worsened</a> since the onset of social distancing protocols due to COVID-19. </p><p>The <a href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/safe-activities-during-covid19/art-20489385" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mayo Clinic</a> lists hiking, biking, and skiing as safe activities during COVID-19. Their website explains, "When you're outside, fresh air is constantly moving, dispersing these droplets. So you're less likely to breathe in enough of the respiratory droplets containing the virus that causes COVID-19 to become infected."</p><p>TCT leadership took this into consideration when embarking on the accessibility project. McMahon explains that there has never been a more important time to bring accessibility to the great outdoors: "Canadians have told us that during these difficult times, they value access to natural spaces to stay active, take care of their mental health, and socially connect with others while respecting physical distancing and public health directives. This partnership is incredibly important especially now as trails have become a lifeline for Canadians."</p><p>Together, these organizations are paving the way for better physical and mental health among all Canadians. To learn more about the TCT's mission and initiatives, check out their <a href="https://thegreattrail.ca/stories/" target="_blank">trail stories</a> and <a href="https://thegreattrail.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/TCT_2020-Donor-Impact-Report_EN_8.5x14-web.pdf" target="_blank">2020 Impact Report</a>.</p>