King County filed a lawsuit today in King County Superior Court against the five largest oil companies to hold them responsible for knowingly contributing to climate disruptions and putting the residents of King County at greater risk of floods, landslides, ocean acidification, sea level rise, and other impacts.
The legal action against BP, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch and ConocoPhillips seeks an order requiring the companies to fund the costs of adapting infrastructure such as stormwater management, as well as salmon recovery, protecting public health, and other costs.
“The science is undisputable: climate change is impacting our region today, and it will only cause greater havoc and hardships in the future,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “The companies that profited the most from fossil fuels should help bear the costs of managing these disasters. Big Oil spent many decades disregarding and dismissing what is our most pressing generational challenge. We must hold these companies accountable as we marshal our resources to protect and preserve what makes this region great.”
Attorneys for the county say this abatement fund could be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The lawsuit was developed with the Seattle-based law firm Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP, which helped lead the historic case and settlement against Big Tobacco in the 1990’s.
Jurisdictions in California, New York and Colorado have filed similar lawsuits.
King County noted in its 2015 Strategic Climate Action Plan: “Even if global and GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions decrease dramatically, many climate change impacts are now inevitable and preparation for those changes is essential.”
Already, areas of King County that were once above the mean high tide line now experience regular flooding. Sea level is projected to continue rising through the 21st century, increasing by as much as 56 inches in the Puget Sound region from 2000 to 2100. This would have significant consequences for King County and the region.