Attorney General Becerra Supports New York City’s Suit to Hold Big Oil Companies Accountable for Sea-Level Rise and Other Climate Harms

Friday, November 16, 2018
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today joined a multistate coalition in filing an amicus brief supporting New York City in its suit against five of the largest oil companies for their contributions to climate change and passing costs on to local governments. The case is currently pending in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. New York City’s suit seeks to hold defendants accountable for long-term and ongoing impacts of climate change through their production, marketing, and sale of massive amounts of fossil fuels.

“Throughout the U.S., cities are grappling with the high costs of managing the devastating effects of climate change,” said Attorney General Becerra. “From the constructions of sea walls to the recovery efforts after a massive storm, taxpayers shoulder the heaviest burden to repair and prevent the damage of rising sea levels and weather events caused by global warming. We support New York City’s effort to hold accountable big oil companies who continue to profit from pollution, while our communities suffer the dire consequences.” 

New York alleges that the companies’ conduct exacerbates global warming and its impacts, including hotter temperatures, extreme weather events, rising sea level, and other irreversible harms.  In addition, climate change impacts New York and other cities who must manage unnecessary inundation, erosion, flooding, property damage, and threats to the health and safety of residents.  In its suit, New York City cites that the companies are collectively responsible for over 11 percent of all carbon and methane pollution from industrial sources that has accumulated in the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution.

New York City is appealing a decision by the district court to dismiss the case on the grounds that the city’s claim was displaced by federal common law and the Clean Air Act and that the claims are political questions not appropriate for judicial determination.

In the amicus brief supporting New York City, the Attorneys General address the following issues with the district court decision:

  • States and local government have a critical interest in abating climate change and mitigating climate harms and have the authority to do so. 
  • Federal law alone does not govern all actions related to climate harms. The City’s claims concern the marketing and sale of fossil fuels which are not regulated by federal common law or delegated exclusively to the federal government under the Clean Air Act.

A copy of the brief can be found here.

# # #