CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – As the city works to combat flooding and sea level rise, Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg announced a lawsuit against 24 fossil fuel companies for “costs of surviving climate change.”
The city filed a lawsuit in South Carolina state court to hold fossil fuel companies accountable for the costs of adapting to the harmful impacts of climate change, according to a news release Wednesday.
“As this lawsuit shows, these companies have known for more than 50 years that their products were going to cause the worst flooding the world has seen since Noah built the Ark,” said Mayor Tecklenburg during Wednesday’s news conference at the Battery.
Mayor Tecklenburg went on to say, “instead of warning us, they covered up the truth and turned our flooding problems into their profits. That was wrong, and this lawsuit is all about holding them accountable for that multi-decade campaign of deception.”
The lawsuit outlined six causes of action, which includes public and private nuisance, strict liability and negligent failure to warn, trespass, and violations of South Carolina’s Unfair Trade Practices Act.
According to the City of Charleston, lawsuit details examples from defendants’ decades-long campaign to deceive the public, press, and policy makers about the harm the defendants knew would occur from the use of their products.
The complaint also details the resulting impacts that Charleston is currently enduring, including:
• The frequency of flooding events has increased substantially in Charleston, from around 4 days per year around 50 years ago to nearly 89 days per year as of 2019.
• The City has incurred significant costs on capital projects to address sea level rise, including, but not limited to, by rebuilding its aging Low Battery Seawall to account for sea level rise projections, installing check valves to prevent tidal intrusion on the City’s storm drain system, and redesigning and retrofitting its floodwater drainage system to keep up with increased flooding caused by sea level rise, including by constructing over 8,000 feet of new drainage tunnels.
• The City is expected to endure 30 additional days per year of temperatures higher than 95°F by 2070… Due to systemic inequities, people of color and those living in poverty tend to be particularly vulnerable to extreme heat events.
The City of Charleston is the first southern city in the United States, and the 21st community nationwide, to hold oil companies accountable for climate change deception, impacts, and cost.
News 2 reached out to the oil companies listed in the lawsuit. Some of the responses are listed below.
The Shell Group – “The Shell Group’s position on climate change has been a matter of public record for decades. We agree that action is needed now on climate change, we fully support the need for society to transition to a lower-carbon future and we’re committed to playing our part by addressing our own emissions and helping customers to reduce theirs. As the energy system evolves, so will our business, to provide the mix of products that our customers need and extend the economic and social benefits of energy access to everyone.
Addressing a challenge as big as climate change requires a truly collaborative, society-wide approach. We do not believe the courtroom is the right venue to address climate change, but that smart policy from government, supported by inclusive action from all business sectors, including ours, and from civil society, is the appropriate way to reach solutions and drive progress.“
ExxonMobil – Legal proceedings like this waste millions of dollars of taxpayer money and do nothing to advance meaningful actions that reduce the risks of climate change. ExxonMobil will continue to invest in efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while meeting society’s growing demand for energy. The claims are baseless and without merit. We look forward to defending the company in court.