New Jersey Is Suing Oil Companies For Their Alleged Culpability In Creating Climate Change

The state of New Jersey is suing oil companies like ExxonMobil and Shell Oil for their purported role in climate change

By Charlene Badasie | Published

New Jersey officials have filed a lawsuit against some of the world’s largest oil and gas companies. The move comes after the state’s Attorney General Matthew Platkin surveyed the region’s extreme climate change-related weather damage and decided it shouldn’t be residents or the state shouldering the massive costs of rebuilding. Instead, the burden should belong to the industry responsible for the destruction.

In court papers filed in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Platkin argued that several oil and gas companies knowingly made false claims to deceive the public about the existence of climate change. He also said they were dishonest about the degree to which their fossil fuel products have been exacerbating anthropogenic global warming. The lawmaker was joined by the state’s Division of Consumer Affairs and the Department of Environmental Protection.

According to ARS Technica, New Jersey’s lawsuit targets ExxonMobil, Shell Oil, Chevron, BP, ConocoPhillips, and the American Petroleum Institute which is the trade group that all those companies belong to. The state’s decision is similar to the legal action taken by Rhode Island, Delaware, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Vermont who also sued some of the largest oil companies for their role in delaying climate change policy and increasing its impact.

In his announcement, the New Jersey official claimed that these fossil fuel industry stakeholders also violated the Consumer Fraud Act by “misrepresenting, suppressing, and omitting material facts about the adverse impacts of their products through a national climate-denialist campaign starting in the 1980s and continuing through today.” He also accused the defendants of negligence, impairment of the public trust, trespass, and public nuisance.

Like New Jersey, about two dozen other climate liability suits have been making their way through the courts since 2015. These were bolstered by media investigations and attribution studies that can accurately pinpoint the precise contribution climate change has made to the damages inflicted by extreme weather events. A 2021 study by the Environmental Journal Nature, found that just over $8 billion worth of damages caused by Superstorm Sandy is attributable to sea-level rises caused by climate change.

It will be interesting to see how New Jersey’s pending lawsuit will play out as the United States slowly moves toward ending its reliance on fossil fuels. The country has recently invested billions of dollars to boost electric vehicle installations nationwide over the next five years.

Moreover, Bloomberg noted that the legal action is similar to a New York-led lawsuit in 2018 that ultimately resulted in a loss for the state.

The companies being sued now seem to expect New Jersey’s legal action to end the same as 2018’s. Speaking about the latest development, Chevron lawyer Theodore Boutrous Jr. told the publication that Platkin’s lawsuit is a distraction from the serious problem of global climate change, not an attempt to find a real solution.

ExxonMobil spokesperson Casey Norton shared these sentiments saying, “Legal proceedings like this waste millions of dollars of taxpayer money and do nothing to advance meaningful actions that reduce the risks of climate change.” The Shell Corporation gave a similar statement.