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California v. BP P.L.C.

United States District Court for the Northern District of California

February 27, 2018, Decided; February 27, 2018, Filed

No. C 17-06011 WHA; No. C 17-06012 WHA




In these "global warming" actions asserting claims for public nuisance under state law, plaintiff municipalities move to remand. For the following reasons, the motions are DENIED.


Oakland and San Francisco brought these related actions in California Superior Court against defendants BP p.l.c, Chevron Corporation, ConocoPhillips Company, Exxon Mobil Corporation, and Royal Dutch Shell plc. Defendants are the first (Chevron), second (Exxon), fourth (BP), sixth (Shell) and ninth (ConocoPhillips) largest cumulative producers of fossil fuels worldwide (Compls. ¶ 10). [*4] 

Burning fossil fuels adds carbon dioxide to that already naturally present in our atmosphere. Plaintiffs allege that the combustion (by others) of fossil fuels produced by defendants has increased atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide and, as a result, raised global temperatures and melted glaciers to cause a rise in sea levels, and thus caused flooding in Oakland and San Francisco (Oakl. Compl. ¶¶ 38, 48, 50; SF Compl. ¶¶ 38, 49, 51).

The complaints do not seek to impose liability for direct emissions of carbon dioxide, which emissions flow from combustion in worldwide machinery that use such fuels, like automobiles, jets, ships, train engines, powerplants, heating systems, factories, and so on. Rather, plaintiffs' state law nuisance claims are premised on the theory that — despite long-knowing that their products posed severe risks to the global climate — defendants produced fossil fuels while simultaneously engaging in large scale advertising and public relations campaigns to discredit scientific research on global warming, to downplay the risks of global warming, and to portray fossil fuels as environmentally responsible and essential to human well-being (Oakl. Compl. ¶¶ 11, 62-83; [*5]  SF Compl. ¶¶ 11, 63-84).

The complaints further allege that accelerated sea level rise has and will continue to inundate public and private property in Oakland and San Francisco. Although plaintiffs (and the federal government through the Army Corps of Engineers) have already taken action to abate the harm of sea level rise, the magnitude of such actions will continue to increase. The complaints stress that a severe storm surge, coupled with higher sea levels, could result in loss of life and extensive damage to public and private property (Oakl. Compl. ¶¶ 84-92; SF Compl. ¶¶ 85-93).

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2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 32990 *; 48 ELR 20036; 2018 WL 1064293

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA, Plaintiff, v. BP P.L.C., et al., Defendants.

Subsequent History: Motion granted by City of Oakland v. BP P.L.C., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 106895 (N.D. Cal., June 25, 2018)

Dismissed by, Judgment entered by City of Oakland v. BP p.l.c., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 126258 (N.D. Cal., July 27, 2018)


nuisance, Air, global, fuels, displaced, emissions, fossil, pollution, warming, interstate, domestic, sea