Chicago sues Big Oil for climate deception and damages

Chicago is targeting industry giants such as ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, Shell, ConocoPhillips, Phillips 66, and the American Petroleum Institute for their alleged long-term misinformation campaign.

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Chicago has initiated a landmark lawsuit against leading oil conglomerates, accusing them of deceiving the public about the role of fossil fuels in exacerbating the climate crisis. Mayor Brandon Johnson’s administration took the legal battle to the Cook County Circuit Court, targeting industry giants such as ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, Shell, ConocoPhillips, Phillips 66, and the American Petroleum Institute for their alleged long-term misinformation campaign.

The lawsuit asserts that these corporations have not only denied the existence of climate change but have also obscured their products’ significant contributions to the global predicament. “The climate change impacts that Chicago has faced and will continue to face—including more frequent and intense storms, flooding, droughts, extreme heat events, and shoreline erosion—are felt throughout every part of the city and disproportionately in low-income communities,” the legal filing states, painting a grim picture of the city’s struggle against escalating environmental challenges.

Mayor Johnson emphasized the necessity of accountability in the face of these ongoing crises. “From the unprecedented poor air quality that we experienced last summer to the basement floodings that our residents on the West Side experienced, the consequences of this crisis are severe, as are the costs of surviving them,” Johnson remarked, underlining the dire need for the implicated corporations to bear responsibility for their actions.

Chicago’s legal action is part of a broader national movement, with several U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and multiple municipalities already holding Big Oil accountable for similar allegations. The Center for Climate Integrity highlighted the unanimous rulings against the fossil fuel industry’s attempts to derail such lawsuits, signaling a growing judicial acknowledgment of the need for these cases to proceed in state courts.

Support for Chicago’s stance has been widespread among climate campaigners. Richard Wiles, president of the Center for Climate Integrity, hailed the lawsuit as a pivotal moment in the fight against climate misinformation. “With Chicago, the nation’s third largest city, joining the fray, there is no doubt that we are witnessing a historic wave of lawsuits that could finally hold Big Oil accountable for the climate crisis they knowingly caused,” Wiles stated, acknowledging the potential for this lawsuit to set a significant precedent.

The city’s legal claims are extensive, accusing the defendants of a range of offenses including Failure to Warn, Negligence, Public Nuisance, Civil Conspiracy, Unjust Enrichment, and violations of Chicago’s municipal codes concerning Consumer Fraud. The nearly 200-page complaint seeks not only compensatory and loss-of-use damages but also penalties, fines for statutory violations, and the disgorgement of profits derived from these deceptive practices.

Angela Tovar, Chicago’s chief sustainability officer, voiced the urgent need for the fossil fuel industry to redress the harm they’ve inflicted. “The fossil fuel industry should be able to pay for the damage they’ve caused. We have to see accountability for the climate crisis,” Tovar told the Chicago Sun-Times, reinforcing the city’s resolve to secure justice for the impacted communities.

This lawsuit underscores a critical juncture in the ongoing battle for environmental justice, highlighting the tangible impacts of climate change on urban centers like Chicago and the crucial role of legal avenues in seeking redress and accountability. As the city stands firm in its demand for reparation, the outcome of this legal challenge could have far-reaching implications for how corporate environmental responsibility is enforced in the future.

“In bringing this lawsuit, we are not just fighting for reparations; we are fighting for the future of our city and the global community at large,” stated Mayor Johnson, encapsulating the lawsuit’s broader significance in the global effort to combat climate change and ensure a sustainable future for all.

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Alexandra Jacobo is a dedicated progressive writer, activist, and mother with a deep-rooted passion for social justice and political engagement. Her journey into political activism began in 2011 at Zuccotti Park, where she supported the Occupy movement by distributing blankets to occupiers, marking the start of her earnest commitment to progressive causes. Driven by a desire to educate and inspire, Alexandra focuses her writing on a range of progressive issues, aiming to foster positive change both domestically and internationally. Her work is characterized by a strong commitment to community empowerment and a belief in the power of informed public action. As a mother, Alexandra brings a unique and personal perspective to her activism, understanding the importance of shaping a better world for future generations. Her writing not only highlights the challenges we face but also champions the potential for collective action to create a more equitable and sustainable world.

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