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Charleston Sues Big Oil Over Climate ‘Campaign of Deception’ (1)

Sept. 9, 2020, 7:03 PMUpdated: Sept. 9, 2020, 7:16 PM

Charleston, S.C., is the latest city to sue the oil industry over allegedly misleading the public about the impacts of fossil fuels on climate change.

Mayor John Tecklenburg (D) announced Wednesday that he’s taking Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp., Royal Dutch Shell Plc, and others to court for a “multidecade campaign of deception” that has promoted fossil fuels despite their role as the primary driver of global temperature rise.

He said in a news conference that “it’s not fair to the citizens of Charleston to have to bear the burden” of local infrastructure improvements and repairs to respond to rising seas and more powerful storms.

The case, filed in the South Carolina Court of Common Pleas, accuses companies of public and private nuisance and violations of the state’s Unfair Trade Practices Act, among other claims.

Charleston’s lawsuit joins a growing collection of similar climate cases from state and local governments. Hoboken, N.J., filed a similar suit last week. Sher Edling LLP, the California-based law firm behind several of the cases, is representing Charleston.

Oil and gas companies quickly criticized the new lawsuit, raising the same points they made in response to Hoboken’s filing last week. Chevron said the claims “are not a serious solution to a serious problem,” Exxon called the litigation a waste of money, and Shell said courts aren’t the right venue to address climate change.

Causes of Action: Public nuisance, private nuisance, failure to warn, trespass, South Carolina Unfair Trade Practices Act.

Relief: Compensatory damages, nuisance abatement, punitive damages, disgorgement of profits.

Attorneys: The Office of Corporation Council, Sher Edling LLP, and Joe Griffith Law Firm LLC represent the city.

The case is Charleston v. Brabham Oil Co., S.C. Ct. Com. Pl., No. 2020CP1003975, 9/9/20.

(Adds company reactions in sixth paragraph.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Ellen M. Gilmer in Washington at egilmer@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Anna Yukhananov at ayukhananov@bloombergindustry.com; Rebecca Baker at rbaker@bloombergindustry.com