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Attorney General William Tong

03/20/2019

ATTORNEY GENERAL TONG JOINS BRIEF IN SUPPORT OF LAWSUIT BY OAKLAND AND SAN FRANCISCO COMMUNITIES TO HOLD BIG OIL ACCOUNTABLE FOR COSTS OF SEA-LEVEL RISE

(Hartford, CT) -- Attorney General William Tong today joined a multistate coalition filing an amicus brief in support of the city of Oakland and the city and county of San Francisco in their lawsuit City of Oakland and City and County of San Francisco. v. BP, et al., to hold petroleum and coal companies accountable for actions contributing to climate change and the resulting harms from sea-level rise and other effects.

"This case is about more than Oakland and San Francisco—it is about holding the fossil fuel industry accountable for the dire risks we all face due to climate change. If allowed to stand, the lower court's problematic decision could dramatically narrow the ability of states to pursue future climate change legislation. Connecticut stands ready to take all action necessary to protect human welfare from the real and severe threat of climate change," said Attorney General Tong.

In their suit, the California cities and county allege that the companies’ conduct exacerbates global warming and its impacts, including hotter temperatures, extreme weather events, rising sea level, and other irreversible harms – leaving local governments to manage the full costs of inundation, erosion, flooding, property damage, and threats to the health and safety of residents. Research by the State of California projects San Francisco’s coastline to rise by as much as 10 feet by 2100. In Oakland and San Francisco, property worth billions of dollars is located six feet or less above current sea levels. In San Francisco alone, bayside sea-level rise from global warming places at risk at least $10 billion of public property and as much as $39 billion of private property.

The case is currently pending in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals after the oil companies removed the coastal communities’ suit from state to federal court, where the cases were then dismissed. In the brief, the coalition 11 attorneys general assert that the district court decisions failing to send the cases back to state court and then dismissing the cases should be reversed.

The coalition argues that:
• States play an important role in addressing climate change and protect human welfare, including providing a forum to decide cases related to climate change and enacting policies and programs to mitigate its effects;
• The Clean Air Act recognizes states’ role in reducing air pollution and does not indicate that the federal courts should have exclusive jurisdiction over cases involving climate change;
• The defendants’ transfer of the plaintiffs cases to federal court, and the subsequent dismissal of those claims, were incorrect interpretation of the law and, if left in place, would unjustly deny plaintiffs a remedy for harm.

Joining Attorney General Tong in filing the brief are the Attorneys General of California, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

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