FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 9, 2022
U.S. Mayors Affirm Support for Cities’ Right to Sue Fossil Fuel Corporations for Climate Damages
U.S. Conference of Mayors Calls Efforts by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to Curb Court Access “A Direct Threat to Municipal and Taxpayer Rights” in Resolution Passed at Annual Meeting
Contact: Mike Meno, Center for Climate Integrity, email@example.com
RENO, NEVADA — In a resolution adopted during the nonpartisan group’s 90th annual meeting earlier this week, the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCOM) condemned efforts by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other industry-backed groups to curb cities’ access to the courts as “a direct threat to municipal and taxpayer rights.”
The resolution, “Preserving Cities' Access to the Courts to Protect Taxpayers from Climate-Related Adaptation Costs,” also supports the right of municipalities to sue fossil fuel corporations to recover the cost of climate damages. Since 2017, 20 cities and counties — along with seven attorneys general — have filed lawsuits to hold major oil and gas corporations accountable for climate damages the companies knowingly caused.
Last year the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform published a report recommending ways that state governments could “preclude or discourage” local governments from turning to the courts to seek justice for their residents.
"Mayors across the country affirmed that cities and counties have a right to turn to the courts to seek justice for their residents, and that we stand against any efforts to weaken or diminish that right,” said Mayor Tom Butt of Richmond, California, who sponsored the resolution. “The costs to shield our residents from the impacts of climate change are skyrocketing. Fossil fuel corporations knowingly got us into this mess and they should be held accountable to pay their fair share of the damage. I'm proud that the U.S. Conference of Mayors has stood firm against the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and others' attacks on our home rule, and our right to protect our communities."
This year’s resolution is the second time the U.S. Conference of Mayors, whose members represent cities of 30,000 residents or more, has adopted a resolution affirming the rights of municipalities to access the courts to hold the fossil fuel industry accountable. A 2019 resolution opposed “any legislation, whether in Congress or state legislatures, that attempts to limit or eliminate cities' access to the courts by overriding existing laws or in any way giving fossil fuel companies immunity from lawsuits over climate change-related costs and damages.”
The 2022 resolution reads in part:
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that The United States Conference of Mayors believes that no state should preempt or otherwise obstruct cities' abilities to represent and protect their residents; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that The United States Conference of Mayors believes that the efforts of industry and third-party trade groups at the federal and state level to undermine and restrict cities' access to courts, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's recent efforts to "curb" affirmative municipal litigation, are a direct threat to municipal and taxpayer rights; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that The United States Conference of Mayors categorically opposes any legislation, whether in Congress or state legislatures, that attempts to limit or eliminate cities' access to the courts by overriding existing laws or in any way giving fossil fuel companies immunity from lawsuits over climate change-related costs and damages; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that The United States Conference of Mayors supports the rights of, and affirms the grounds on which, the 20 municipalities that have brought forth suits seeking accountability for the climate impacts they're suffering, and affirmatively supports the continued right for other cities and counties to do the same.
Read a copy of the full resolution here.
Background on Climate Accountability Lawsuits:
Since 2017, 20 city and county governments in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, and Washington, as well as the attorneys general of Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Vermont, and the District of Columbia, have filed lawsuits to hold major oil and gas companies accountable for deceiving the public about their products’ role in climate change.
In 2022, four separate federal appeals courts have affirmed decisions allowing climate accountability lawsuits — from the City of Baltimore, three Colorado communities, six California communities, and the State of Rhode Island — to proceed in state court, where they were filed.
The Center for Climate Integrity works to help communities hold corporate polluters accountable for the massive costs of climate change. For more information, visit climateintegrity.org