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New York City to Exxon: Pay up for climate change costs

New York City delivered a powerful blow to the fossil fuel industry by launching a climate change lawsuit against the...

Posted: Jan 10, 2018 4:06 PM
Updated: Jan 10, 2018 4:06 PM

New York City delivered a powerful blow to the fossil fuel industry by launching a climate change lawsuit against the biggest oil companies and promising to dump billions of dollars of fossil fuel stocks.

New York became the largest American city to sue Big Oil, demanding that ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, Royal Dutch Shell and ConocoPhillips pay for the cost of protecting the city from the "existential threat" of climate change.

The city on Wednesday also announced a goal to divest its $189 billion pension system from fossil fuel reserve owners within five years. New York said that would become first major U.S. pension plan to complete such an exit.

The lawsuit, filed on Tuesday, claims the city "already has suffered damage from climate change," including coastal erosion and tidal flooding. It said the city faces "imminent threats to its property, its infrastructure and the health and safety of its residents."

New York said it's "exceptionally vulnerable" to rising sea levels. It said resiliency projects will cost billions of dollars -- money the city doesn't have.

"We're bringing the fight against climate change straight to the fossil fuel companies that knew about its effects and intentionally misled the public to protect their profits," Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement.

The lawsuit cited recently-uncovered documents about what oil companies knew about the threat from climate change. A recent Harvard study concluded that Exxon "misled the public" for more than 40 years. Exxon has rejected the claims.

Related: Exxon claims California climate change hypocrisy

In response, a Shell spokesman called climate change a "complex societal challenge that should be addressed through sound government policy and cultural change to drive low-carbon choices for businesses and consumers, not by the courts."

Conoco and BP declined to comment. Representatives from Exxon and Chevron did not respond to requests for comment.

The National Association of Manufacturers, which represents the oil companies, slammed New York for joining a "politically-motivated campaign to undermine manufacturing in America." The trade group said de Blasio has decided to "play politics with underfunded pension plans" even as New Yorkers have depended on natural gas and oil during the extremely cold weather.

The New York lawsuit follows recent ones filed by San Francisco, Oakland and other California cities and counties. Earlier this week, Exxon launched a counterassault, claiming that California municipalities failed to disclose to municipal bond investors the imminent threat from climate change that they detailed in their oil lawsuits. Exxon said it's the victim of a vast "conspiracy" and "abuse of government power."

Climate activists, who argued the Exxon move amounted to an effort to intimidate local governments, cheered New York's lawsuit.

"New York City today becomes a capital of the fight against climate change on this planet," said Bill McKibben, co-founder of environmental group 350.org, in a statement.

Greenpeace USA Executive Director Annie Leonard said, "New York City's impressive leadership makes me hopeful for the future."

Related: Exxon gives up major climate change fight

New York City's pension system is the fourth largest in the U.S., and controls around $5 billion in the securities of more than 190 fossil fuel companies. The funds invest the pensions of hundreds of thousands of active and retired city teachers, firefighters, police officers and other employees.

"Our announcement sends a message to the world that a brighter economy rests on being green," said New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer.

Stringer acknowledged that divesting from fossil fuels will be "complex" and will "take time." City officials plan to submit a joint resolution instructing pension fund trustees to begin analysizing how it can be done in a responsible way.

Various other U.S. cities have committed to divest their fossil fuel holdings. Powerful pension funds such as the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) have also done so. Even Norway's $1 trillion sovereign wealth fund, built on the country's oil riches, has backed away from fossil fuels.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 549830

Reported Deaths: 7067
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1145171675
Ramsey47380851
Dakota42007420
Anoka38065415
Washington24723273
Stearns20819218
St. Louis16620297
Scott15798117
Wright14643125
Olmsted1268297
Sherburne1046080
Carver970145
Clay777389
Rice7554101
Blue Earth690640
Kandiyohi623979
Crow Wing607986
Chisago543749
Otter Tail539373
Benton526097
Mower449532
Douglas438970
Goodhue438271
Winona437249
Nobles398748
Morrison391159
McLeod387854
Beltrami370557
Isanti370359
Itasca366052
Polk362467
Steele357714
Becker350248
Lyon346748
Carlton327052
Freeborn325029
Pine309221
Nicollet304142
Brown293139
Mille Lacs277350
Le Sueur268022
Todd267230
Cass247426
Meeker232737
Waseca229520
Martin211529
Wabasha19913
Roseau195518
Hubbard170541
Dodge17033
Renville169743
Redwood165435
Houston162114
Cottonwood155320
Fillmore15149
Pennington149519
Chippewa144636
Faribault142919
Wadena142721
Sibley134910
Aitkin127836
Kanabec127621
Watonwan12529
Rock121719
Jackson115910
Yellow Medicine110119
Pipestone109125
Murray10209
Pope10146
Swift98618
Marshall85317
Stevens80510
Lake78019
Clearwater76614
Wilkin76512
Koochiching76212
Lac qui Parle73422
Big Stone5594
Lincoln5572
Grant5438
Norman5209
Mahnomen4948
Unassigned48278
Kittson46222
Red Lake3857
Traverse3595
Lake of the Woods2993
Cook1440

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 356912

Reported Deaths: 5810
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk55819602
Linn20248329
Scott18949234
Black Hawk15517306
Woodbury14872220
Johnson1397781
Dubuque13115202
Dallas1087696
Pottawattamie10703162
Story1028547
Warren553586
Clinton536490
Cerro Gordo521186
Webster507991
Sioux505073
Marshall476874
Muscatine457896
Des Moines440665
Wapello4250120
Buena Vista421440
Jasper407670
Plymouth396779
Lee367755
Marion354375
Jones292955
Henry285937
Carroll279050
Bremer278960
Crawford262039
Boone257833
Benton249655
Washington249249
Dickinson240643
Mahaska224049
Jackson217842
Kossuth212362
Clay209825
Tama206571
Delaware202539
Winneshiek193933
Page190320
Buchanan188231
Cedar183423
Fayette182841
Wright180135
Hardin179242
Hamilton177949
Harrison175373
Clayton166655
Butler162434
Mills158020
Cherokee156738
Floyd155242
Lyon154341
Madison153519
Poweshiek152433
Allamakee149051
Iowa145324
Hancock143334
Winnebago135831
Grundy135032
Cass134354
Calhoun133111
Jefferson130535
Emmet128340
Shelby127337
Sac126819
Appanoose126647
Louisa126549
Mitchell125241
Union124032
Chickasaw122515
Humboldt118126
Guthrie117729
Franklin112521
Palo Alto110421
Howard102822
Montgomery100237
Unassigned10020
Clarke98023
Keokuk94430
Monroe93528
Ida89433
Adair84332
Pocahontas83321
Monona80930
Davis79924
Greene76410
Osceola75016
Lucas74922
Worth7078
Taylor65112
Fremont61210
Decatur5899
Van Buren55518
Ringgold53423
Wayne51923
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