Councilmembers Ask for LA to Follow New York in Filing Legal Action Against Corporations Responsible for Damage Caused by Changing Climate

LOS ANGELES – In a bold move that seeks to hold oil companies responsible for the damage climate change is doing to Los Angeles, City Councilmembers Mike Bonin and Paul Koretz today called for the City of Los Angeles to file a lawsuit against the large oil companies that have profited at the expense of our climate.

The Bonin-Koretz proposal follows a similar action recently announced in New York City, where the city is suing the world’s five largest publicly traded oil companies, seeking to hold them responsible for present and future damage to the city from climate change. The suit, filed Tuesday against BP, Chevron, Conoco-Phillips, ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell, claims the companies together produced 11 percent of all of global-warming gases through the oil and gas products they have sold over the years. It also charges that the companies and the industry they are part of have known for some time about the consequences but sought to obscure them.

“By knowing that their business practice was contributing to climate change and doing nothing to stop their destructive ways, the oil and gas industry should be held liable for the current and future damage climate change is causing our city,” Bonin and Koretz wrote in a motion submitted this morning, and seconded by Councilmembers Jose Huizar and Marqueece Harris-Dawson. “Taxpayers should not be footing the bill for infrastructure repairs that likely wouldn’t have been necessary had it not been for the willful neglect of the fossil fuel industry.”

The New York City lawsuit is the latest in a series of actions across the country, and Marin County, San Mateo County, Santa Cruz County, and the cities of San Francisco, Oakland, and Imperial Beach have all also filed similar lawsuits against oil companies.

Climate change has been a scientifically accepted fact for decades, and reports made public by InsideClimate News in recent years have revealed that oil companies have been aware of climate change – and the industry’s role in causing it – since as early as the late 1970s.

The effects of climate change are already being felt in Los Angeles and they are already taking a dire toll on our city and the people who live here. Climate change is a contributing factor in the intensity of recent fires, as well as the abnormally intense weather patterns and storms that can claims lives in floods and mudslides. Climate change is also having a disastrous effect on Angelenos’ health, and as the Los Angeles Times has reported: “By 2050, the Los Angeles area is expected to warm by 5 degrees on average. Higher temperatures will create more smog, leading to more asthma and cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks. Water quality will also decline, experts say, because as water evaporates, the concentration of pollutants in the water becomes greater. Angelenos will also suffer through more extreme heat, which already accounts for more deaths annually nationwide than flood, storms and lightning combined.”

The Bonin-Koretz motion formally requests that the Los Angeles City Attorney report to the City Council in executive session with options for filing claims against the corporations that have profited from the production and sale of fossil fuels, and also requests that the City Attorney prepare an amicus brief to submit in the claims filed by the City of New York, as well as in any other claims that local municipalities have filed against oil companies based on the damage caused by climate change.

The motion was referred to the City Council’s Budget & Finance Committee.

– # # # –