Democratic Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and several environmental groups filed amicus briefs Tuesday supporting a slew of lawsuits in California that blame oil companies for contributing to global warming.
Whitehouse filed his brief in the 9th Circuit court and asked the court to take up San Mateo and Santa Cruz’s lawsuit against Chevron. He was among a handful of activists to file similar documents supporting various municipal climate lawsuits targeting the company.
Chevron’s defense should be understood as “rent-seeking,” his office wrote in the brief, noting also that “the courts are well-equipped to adjudicate these matters and enter an order consistent with the positions expressed herein.”
Researchers Naomi Oreskes and Geoffrey Supran were among those propping up the litigation, which seeks to hold Chevron responsible for the damage climate change has played on city infrastructure.
Chevron and others had “information from their own internal research, as well as from the international scientific community, that the unabated extraction, production, promotion, and sale of their fossil fuel products would result in material dangers to the public,” Oreskes and Supran noted in their brief.
“Defendants failed to disclose this information or take steps to protect the public,” they added. Oreskes is a professor of history at Harvard University who’s been one of the chief researchers arguing that Chevron, ExxonMobil and other oil producers actively hide information about global warming from public view.
Attorneys General from California, New York, Maryland, New Jersey, Oregon and Rhode Island are also asking the 9th Circuit to take up the case. The brief was signed by California AG Xavier Becerra among other assistants in his office.
“In light of the costly impacts that climate change is already having within our borders, and because the harmful effects of climate change are unlikely to stop in the near future, Amici States have a concrete interest in the ability of state courts to adjudicate climate change-related claims,” the AG’s noted.
The litigation came after three years of investigation first orchestrated by former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who resigned in April 2018 over abuse allegations from former romantic partners. The probe took many twists and turns and seemed to come to a halt shortly after his resignation.
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