The NY Times reports on the landmark lawsuit, which is the first of its kind asserting a direct connection to global warming, and was brought by some of the lawyers involved in landmark nuisance litigation against tobacco companies:
SAN FRANCISCO — Lawyers for the Alaska Native coastal village of Kivalina, which is being forced to relocate because of flooding caused by the changing Arctic climate, filed suit in federal court here Tuesday arguing that 5 oil companies, 14 electric utilities and the country’s largest coal company were responsible for the village’s woes.
The suit is the latest effort to hold companies like BP America, Chevron, Peabody Energy, Duke Energy and the Southern Company responsible for the impact of global warming because they emit millions of tons of greenhouse gases, or, in the case of Peabody, mine and market carbon-laden coal that is burned by others. It accused the companies of creating a public nuisance.
In an unusual move, those five companies and three other defendants — the Exxon Mobil Corporation, American Electric Power and the Conoco Phillips Company — are also accused of conspiracy. “There has been a long campaign by power, coal and oil companies to mislead the public about the science of global warming,” the suit says. The campaign, it says, contributed “to the public nuisance of global warming by convincing the public at large and the victims of global warming that the process is not man-made when in fact it is.”
Kivalina asserts that its forced relocation comes about due to melting sea ice that formerly protected the village from storms, which was tied to global warming in recent reports by the Government Accountability Office (2003) and the Army Corps of Engineers (2006). As the Times notes, previous nuisance lawsuits tied to global warming emissions (including the under-appeal California case against the auto industry that Warming Law has been covering for some time) lack this critical element.
A large portion of the petition builds the conspiracy case, which also reflects the tobacco case's influence a bit more directly-- the "junk science" effort launched by Phillip Morris is directly cited as having both laid the groundwork for polluter-driven efforts at countering peer-reviewed science, and having morphed into a warming-denial outfit under the guidance of ExxonMobil's funding. Using exposes such as the Union of Concerned Scientists' Smoke, Mirrors & Hot Air and the work of science reporter extraordinaire Chris Mooney, the plaintiffs argue that Conspiracy Defendants deliberately worked for decades to "mislead the public with respect to the science of global warming and to delay public awareness of the issue-- so that they could continue contributing to, maintaining and/or creating the nuisance without demands from the public that they change their behavior..."