City officials in Annapolis, Md., filed a lawsuit Monday accusing 26 companies including Exxon, Shell, and the American Petroleum Institute of failing to warn state officials about the dangers posed by man-made climate change.
The lawsuit, filed in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court, alleges that the named companies knew “for decades that climate change impacts could be catastrophic, and that only a narrow window existed to take action before the consequences would be irreversible,” yet failed to warn relevant state officials.
The city’s legal filing goes on to allege that as a direct result of the companies failing to warn about the effects of widespread fossil fuel usage, Annapolis “suffered and will continue to suffer severe injuries, including, but not limited to: inundation and loss of City property; inundation of historic properties, private property, and businesses, with associated loss of tax revenue; injury or destruction of City-owned or -operated infrastructure critical for operations and utility services,” among other damages.
“This lawsuit is all about accountability and determining who should pay the high costs of dealing with climate change,” the city’s mayor, Gavin Buckley (D), said in a statement. “Annapolis residents and businesses pay the price for the damage inflicted on our infrastructure due to increased flooding caused by sea level rise. Fossil fuel companies knew the danger, concealed their knowledge, and reaped the profits. It is time we held them accountable.”
Annapolis’s lawsuit follows similar efforts by cities including Baltimore, whose attorneys are currently fighting at the Supreme Court over whether fossil fuel companies can be held accountable for the financial costs of addressing storm damage and other issues linked by scientists to a changing climate.
“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,” said a company spokesperson.
“We believe the claims are baseless and without merit. We look forward to defending the company in court,” they added.
A representative for Shell contended to The Hill in an emailed statement that the company’s “position on climate change has been a matter of public record for decades.”
“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,” the Shell spokesperson added.
The American Petroleum Institute also defended itself from the city’s claims in a statement to The Hill from the firm’s chief legal officer, who said: “The record of the past two decades demonstrates that the industry has achieved its goal of providing affordable, reliable American energy to U.S. consumers while substantially reducing emissions and our environmental footprint. Any suggestion to the contrary is false.”
The Hill has reached out to the Annapolis mayor’s office for further comment.
Maryland as a whole has faced a number of issues related to climate change in recent years.
This has included worsening levels of flooding in historic Ellicott City that damaged business on the city’s Main Street in 2018. Annapolis itself also faces its own flooding issues that have only grown worse in recent years.