Honolulu’s climate change lawsuit against oil companies will continue, under judge’s rules

A lawsuit filed by Honolulu and the Board of Water Supply against fossil fuel companies has been granted permission to proceed to trial after a ruling Monday by Hawaii Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey Crabtree.

The county government is seeking to hold oil companies accountable for climate change impacts threatening Oahu, including flooding, extreme weather and rising sea levels. Specifically, the county blames Chevron, Sunoco, ExxonMobil and others accused of decades of deception for misrepresenting the damage their global warming products could cause.

The Honolulu case opens new vistas in the area of ​​climate change litigation, according to the city. It’s one of more than a dozen similar lawsuits filed nationwide, but it’s the first to get the go-ahead to proceed to state court at the discovery stage, during which the oil companies will have to submit documents.

The Honolulu City Council unanimously approved filing the lawsuit in 2020.

“This is a big and important win,” City Council Speaker Tommy Waters said in a statement. “Not only in the sense of legal justice, but also for our residents. We face incredible costs to move critical infrastructure away from our shores and out of floodplains, and the oil companies that have deceived the public for decades should be the ones helping foot the bill for those costs, not ours. taxpayers.

Waters likened the case to the legal fight against Big Tobacco, which has proven to have deceived the public for decades.

“The reason these companies are fighting so hard to block this case is because they don’t want more evidence coming out,” Waters said. “I will not stand for this and will continue to fight for the preservation of our communities.”

The Hawaii state government and the Association of Counties in the state submitted amicus briefs supporting the Honolulu case. Meanwhile, the oil companies are appealing to the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit to have the case sent to federal court.

The lawsuit is making its way through the courts as Oahu grapples with the impacts of climate change. Just this week, a house on the North Shore collapsed into the ocean, which many people see as a sign of things to come as oceans rise and coastlines erode.

To address these impacts, the City Council approved a Climate Action Plan for Oahu, added provisions to Oahu’s overall plan to increase climate resilience, and asked Mayor Rick Blangiardi to propose a bill increasing climate resilience. energy efficiency in buildings, the council said in a press release. Release.

“With the Ukraine crisis boiling over, one-third of Hawaii’s current oil supply from Russia is now potentially at risk, providing even greater incentive to switch to clean and safe renewable energy on Oahu,” said the board.