Bucks County files climate lawsuit against Big Oil

Filed a year after devastating flash floods killed seven people in Bucks County, the lawsuit alleges the oil industry deceived the public about its climate impact.

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An image of a Stop sign in the middle of flooding.

Heavy floodwaters are seen in Bucks County in 2023. (6abc)

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Bucks County on Monday sued several oil companies, and the American Petroleum Institute, alleging they intentionally deceived the public about the role fossil fuels play in worsening climate change.

The lawsuit, filed in the county’s Court of Common Pleas, accuses BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Phillips 66, Shell and the API of leading decades-long campaigns to cover up the risks its products pose to the environment.

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The lawsuit states Bucks County has suffered increasingly severe weather events due to the fossil fuel industry’s actions, such as flooding worsened by the rising tidal waters of the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers.

“In Bucks County we understand it is our responsibility to be good stewards of the environment, and with the public’s support, this administration has established the County as a regional leader on environmental issues,” said Commissioner Vice Chair Bob Harvie in a statement. “It is unconscionable that while we were working hard to reduce our impact on the climate crisis, some of the biggest companies in the world were deliberately undercutting those efforts through their deceptive business practices.”

The lawsuit comes less than a year after seven people were killed during flash floods in Bucks County.

The lawsuit seeks monetary damages to pay for storm damage, such as recouping the cost of bolstering or replacing bridges, and funding stormwater management products.

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In a statement, Ryan Meyers, attorney for American Petroleum Institute, called lawsuits against the fossil fuel industry “meritless” and a “waste of taxpayer resources.”

“The record of the past two decades demonstrates that the industry has achieved its goal of providing affordable, reliable American energy to U.S. consumers while substantially reducing emissions and our environmental footprint,” he said in a statement.

Similarly, Chevron Corporation dismissed the merits of the lawsuit.

“Addressing climate change requires a coordinated international policy response, not meritless local litigation over lawful and essential energy production,” said Theodore J. Boutrous, Jr. of Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher.

“As the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held in dismissing a similar New York City lawsuit, ‘such a sprawling case is simply beyond the limits of state law.’”

Bucks County is the first in Pennsylvania to take legal action against the industry. However, there have been more than 1,725 climate lawsuits across the country, according to Columbia Law School’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law.

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