Chicago sues oil companies for impacts of climate change

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The city of Chicago on Tuesday sued six major oil companies and the primary fossil fuel lobbying group, alleging they funded and planned a campaign of climate change denial that directly affects the city’s residents.

In the lawsuit, the city accused BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, Phillips 66, Shell, and the American Petroleum Institute (API) of misleading the public about the impact of their products and of contributing to the effects of climate change on Chicago. 

These impacts include unsafe summer temperatures, an increase in extreme weather, shoreline erosion and susceptibility to disasters such as flash flooding in basements on the city’s West Side, according to the lawsuit. As a result, the city says, climate mitigation and response projects in low-income communities have cost it nearly $200 million. 

The complaint also singles out the API for accusations that it created front groups “to promote climate disinformation and advocacy from a purportedly objective source.” The accusation echoes remarks made by ExxonMobil lobbyist Keith McCoy to an activist in 2021 while being covertly recorded that the company “aggressively [fought] against some of the science” on climate. Exxon has disclaimed responsibility for McCoy’s comments and said they do not represent the view of the company.

“There is no justice without accountability,” Mayor Brandon Johnson (D) said in a statement Tuesday. “From the unprecedented poor air quality that we experienced last summer to the basement floodings that our residents on the West Side experienced, the consequences of this crisis are severe, as are the costs of surviving them. That is why we are seeking to hold these Defendants accountable.”   

Numerous states and municipalities have filed similar lawsuits in recent years, but Chicago, the nation’s third-largest city, is one of the biggest individual municipalities to sue thus far. In 2021, the administration of then-New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) sued ExxonMobil, Shell, BP and the API. 

The Hill has reached out to the six companies and API for comment. 

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