With the declaration, “Enough is enough,” California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced his state was suing five major oil companies. Now some in Pennsylvania are pushing for the commonwealth to side with California.
While there has been no action from the Attorney General’s Office, David Zeballos with the Center for Climate Integrity (CCI) wants the Keystone State to jump in on the Golden State’s side.
“State and local leaders have an important role to play in supporting these accountability efforts and making polluters pay for the damage they have caused,” he said on October 2 at the Pennsylvania Capitol. “You can lead the charge to calculate local climate change adaptation costs, condemn climate disinformation, raise awareness for urgent action on the climate crisis, and much more. The fossil fuel industry knowingly caused the climate crisis and continues to profit from climate pollution while our communities pay the price.”
CCI is considered the main driver of the civil lawsuits against ExxonMobil, BP, Shell, Chevron, and ConocoPhillips. California cited the nonprofit several times in court papers. There are reports suggesting CCI is working with other states and cities on their climate-related lawsuits. CCI President Richard Wiles has also suggested more government-backed suits may be on the horizon.
In Pennsylvania, a Big Oil lawsuit enjoys support from state Rep. Christopher M. Rabb (D-Philadelphia County). He cited the Center for Climate Integrity in August when complaining about the warmer-than-usual summer. Rabb vowed it was time to “make Big Oil pay” for the changing weather.
“Just a few weeks ago, intense rains caused flash flooding in my district of Philadelphia and beyond, killing at least six people in Bucks County,” he said. “Pennsylvania communities have an opportunity to sue Big Oil and protect our residents from being stuck with the bill to adapt to the climate crisis that Big Oil created. The worsening impacts of this climate crisis will continue whether we’re ready or not. It’s time to be proactive and protect our communities.”
Fossil fuels are an important part of Pennsylvania’s economy. The state is the second largest natural gas producer in the country, behind only Texas. It is also the top East Coast supplier of natural gas, coal, and refined petroleum products, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Renewable energy provides three percent of the state’s power.
Pennsylvania isn’t involved in any suits against Big Oil, and there’s no word if Gov. Josh Shapiro’s administration would even consider it.
The Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association hopes Rabb will stay away from litigation. “The radical greens are attempting to overthrow our modern civilization,” PMA President and CEO David Taylor told DVJournal. “Their allies in the litigation industry are trying to extort money out of the productive sector. Either way, it’s a war on society via the courts, also known as ‘lawfare’.”
Taylor sees the suits as “the stupidest kind of politics” because they are going after an industry “that makes modern life possible.” He points out that environmentalists forget that fossil fuels are used for more than just vehicles and heating.
“Electric cars require a ton of rare earth minerals that have to be mined, processed, and transported from the other side of the world, using massive earth-moving equipment, refineries, and ships,” he said. “The rest of the car is metal, plastic, and synthetic rubber. The road is concrete, which is made from cement. The road is then coated in asphalt, which is a petroleum product. It is then striped with paint, which is another petroleum product. The idea that modern humans can live without petrochemicals and hydrocarbons is insane.”
The suits have run into mixed results in courts. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out New York City’s lawsuit in 2021, saying states didn’t have jurisdiction. The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to move other suits to federal court. Justices are expected to rule on whether Minnesota’s Big Oil suit moves to federal court in the near future.
“Anyone blaming fossil fuels should stop using them,” Taylor quipped. “Good luck.”