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New Jersey joins states in suing fossil fuel companies over climate change damages

jersey city — New Jersey officials announced Tuesday the prosecution of five oil and gas companies and a petroleum trade organization, alleging they had known for decades the harmful effects of fossil fuels. Climate change But instead that link deceived the public about it. Attorney General Matthew Platkin and the state’s Department of Consumer Affairs and Environmental Protection said the lawsuit was filed Tuesday in Mercer County Superior Court under the names of Exxon Mobil Corp, Shell oil company Chevron Corp, BP, ConocoPhillips and the American Petroleum Institute trade group. to be done. in which all members are.

The lawsuit alleges that the defendants failed to warn the public about the role of fossil fuels in climate change and instead launched a “public relations campaign to sow doubts about the existence, causes and effects of climate change.”

“Based on their own research, these companies understood decades ago that their products were causing climate change and would have devastating environmental impacts down the road,” Platkin said in a statement. “They went to great lengths to hide the truth and mislead the people of New Jersey and the world.”


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With the lawsuit, New Jersey joins more than two dozen other US cities, counties and states trying to claim compensation from large oil and gas companies for their alleged roles in climate change-related environmental damage. .

as CBS News’ Ben Tracy reported in AprilThe lawsuits are modeled largely after the “Big Tobacco” cases of the 1990s, in which cigarette makers eventually paid hundreds of billions of dollars to compensate states for the costs of tobacco-related diseases and their health benefits for young people. Agreed to stop marketing. ,

New Jersey’s Environmental Protection Commissioner Sean LaTourette called the state “ground zero” for some of the worst effects of climate change. The commissioner said the Garden State’s community and environment are “continuously recovering from extreme heat, severe storms and devastating floods.”

Suit . comes shortly before the 10th anniversary of superstorm sandy, which devastated large parts of New Jersey and New York City. The suit was announced at Liberty State Park in Jersey City, which was flooded with floodwaters from the storm.


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The suit seeks civil penalties and damages, including damage to natural resources such as wetlands, alleging that taxpayers must pay billions of dollars to protect communities from rising sea levels, deadly storms and other harmful effects. and arguing that those costs must have been paid by the defendants.

Shell Group said in a statement that its position on climate change “has been a matter of public record for decades” and that the company agreed that action was needed and that it was “addressing its own emissions and helping customers reduce their emissions.” by helping to reduce” was playing its part. ,

“As energy systems evolve, our business will provide the mix of products our customers need and bring the economic and social benefits of energy access to all,” the company said. Shell said, however, that a “truly collaborative, society-wide approach” was needed and the courtroom was not “the right place.” Instead, the company said, “the government’s smart policy, supported by action from all business sectors, including ours and civil society, is the appropriate way to reach solutions and drive progress.”

Exxon Mobil spokeswoman Casey Norton said such legal proceedings “waste millions of dollars of taxpayer money and do nothing to advance meaningful actions that reduce the risk of climate change.” Norton said the company will “continue to invest in efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while meeting society’s growing energy demand.”

Chevron called the legal action “a distraction from the serious problem of global climate change, not an attempt to find a real solution”. One representative called it “an attempt to punish a select group of energy companies for a problem that is the result of worldwide conduct until the start of the Industrial Revolution.” The company called the claims “legally and factually unqualified” and vowed “to appear in court” while continuing to work in the public and private sectors to “create real solutions to global climate change”.

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An aerial view of the Phillips 66 oil refinery on May 11, 2022 in Linden, New Jersey.

Typhoon Koskun / Anadolu Agency / Getty


Representatives for BP and ConocoPhillips declined to comment. A message seeking comment for this story was also sent to the Manufacturers Accountability Project trade organization, for which a lawyer told CBS News in April that “fighting climate change requires policymaking, not lawsuits.” “

Attorney Phil Goldberg said, “It’s not an issue of who knew what or when, or who said what and when.” “The federal government has the same information they’re saying as energy companies going back to the 1960s and 70s and 80s. The question is, what are we going to do about it today?”

Richard Lazarus, a professor of environmental law at Harvard, told CBS News that while US states and cities are “left with a problem” because of the federal government’s failure to pass laws that protect the environment, there is a legal need for accountability. The fight will need to be united, and even then, it can be an uphill battle.

“The scope of the problem is one that really requires a national approach,” he told Tracy in April. “The challenge will be causality – to prove that their [fossil fuel companies] The fraudulent behavior prevented the United States from passing the laws needed to reduce those greenhouse gas emissions.”

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