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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

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Cases: 295001

Reported Deaths: 3535
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin624331107
Ramsey26238493
Anoka20851224
Dakota20527189
Stearns13245106
Washington13220111
St. Louis8141108
Scott798154
Wright720338
Olmsted639934
Sherburne552241
Clay473356
Carver443213
Blue Earth395813
Rice393335
Kandiyohi378719
Crow Wing344731
Nobles301429
Chisago29799
Otter Tail288820
Benton285847
Winona266629
Mower248523
Douglas242235
Polk238223
Morrison224027
Lyon206711
Beltrami202517
McLeod198511
Becker194015
Goodhue190628
Steele18336
Itasca179123
Isanti179016
Todd173912
Carlton170414
Nicollet154925
Freeborn14795
Mille Lacs145131
Le Sueur141111
Waseca135911
Cass133310
Brown131215
Pine12788
Meeker11638
Roseau11074
Hubbard107523
Martin105520
Wabasha9941
Redwood87518
Dodge8230
Chippewa8157
Watonwan8104
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Renville77322
Sibley7564
Wadena7476
Aitkin71729
Rock7149
Pipestone69618
Houston6534
Fillmore6510
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Pennington6137
Murray5623
Kanabec55713
Swift5448
Faribault5251
Pope5071
Clearwater4817
Stevens4813
Jackson4581
Marshall4508
Lake3916
Unassigned38659
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Wilkin3605
Lac qui Parle3513
Lincoln3331
Norman3307
Big Stone2962
Mahnomen2834
Grant2566
Red Lake2033
Kittson2027
Traverse1391
Lake of the Woods941
Cook630

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 223783

Reported Deaths: 2330
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk33166333
Linn13991164
Scott1100384
Black Hawk10795134
Woodbury10255124
Johnson940036
Dubuque913491
Story674921
Dallas629057
Pottawattamie617069
Sioux366725
Webster357033
Cerro Gordo349644
Marshall346345
Clinton322840
Buena Vista302214
Muscatine282668
Des Moines282419
Warren276411
Plymouth270641
Wapello251571
Jones228413
Jasper214643
Marion202919
Lee199416
Carroll196422
Bremer192612
Henry18107
Crawford174115
Benton167418
Tama153340
Jackson143013
Delaware141021
Washington138214
Dickinson135810
Boone134811
Mahaska126127
Wright12226
Buchanan115410
Clay11504
Hardin114010
Page11144
Hamilton11009
Clayton10875
Harrison106629
Cedar106213
Calhoun10607
Kossuth10426
Floyd103916
Mills10297
Fayette102210
Lyon10188
Butler9916
Poweshiek98213
Winneshiek95812
Iowa93012
Winnebago91323
Hancock8547
Louisa84916
Grundy84611
Chickasaw8424
Sac8407
Cherokee8214
Cass80222
Allamakee79011
Appanoose77910
Mitchell7794
Humboldt7635
Shelby76111
Union7576
Emmet74924
Guthrie74115
Franklin73421
Jefferson7062
Madison6764
Palo Alto6474
Unassigned6470
Keokuk5777
Pocahontas5572
Howard5489
Greene5170
Osceola5171
Ida48113
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