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City of New York v. BP P.L.C.

United States District Court for the Southern District of New York

July 19, 2018, Decided

No. 18 Civ. 182 (JFK)

Opinion

 [*467]  OPINION & ORDER

JOHN F. KEENAN, United States District Judge:

 [*468]  Before the Court is a motion by Defendants Chevron Corporation ("Chevron"), ConocoPhillips, and Exxon Mobil Corporation ("Exxon") (together, the "U.S.-based Defendants") to dismiss Plaintiff City of New York's (the "City") amended complaint under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). For the reasons stated below, Defendants' motion is granted and the City's amended complaint is dismissed.

I. Background

The following facts and allegations are taken from the amended complaint. Defendants BP P.L.C. ("BP"), Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon, and Royal Dutch Shell ("Shell") (together, "Defendants") are multinational oil and gas companies. (Am. Compl. PP 16-20.) Defendants produce, market, and sell mass quantities of fossil fuels, primarily oil and natural gas. (Id. ¶ 1.) Defendants are, respectively, the first (Chevron), second (Exxon), fourth (BP), sixth (Shell), and ninth (ConocoPhillips) largest cumulative producers of fossil fuels worldwide from the mid-nineteenth century to present. (Id. ¶ 76.) Defendants are collectively responsible, through their production, marketing, and sale of fossil fuels, for over eleven percent of all the carbon [**3]  and methane pollution from industrial sources that has accumulated in the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution. (Id. ¶ 3.)

Climate science clearly demonstrates that the burning of fossil fuels is the primary cause of climate change. (Id. ¶¶ 69-70.) When combusted, fossil fuels emit greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, the "largest contribut[or]" to climate change of any source. (Id. ¶ 74.) Additionally, one of Defendants' primary fossil fuel products, natural gas, is composed of methane, which is the second largest greenhouse gas contributor to global warming. (Id.) Global warming, or the gradual heating of the Earth's surface and atmosphere caused by accumulation of greenhouse gas pollution in the atmosphere, has led to hotter temperatures, longer and more severe heat waves, extreme precipitation events including heavy downpours, rising sea levels, and other severe and irreversible harms. (Id. ¶ 2.) The City alleges that, through their production and sale of fossil fuel products, Defendants have contributed to the temperature increases and global-warming-induced sea-level rise affecting New York City. (Id. ¶ 24.)

According to the amended complaint, Defendants have known [**4]  for decades that their fossil fuel products pose risks of severe impacts on the global climate through the warnings of their own scientists, or those of the U.S. trade association, American Petroleum Institute ("API"). (Id. ¶¶ 72, 80.) Beginning in the 1950s, API began warning its members that fossil fuels pose a grave threat to the global climate. (Id. ¶ 82.) Between 1979 and 1983, the API and Defendants, their predecessors, and agents formed a task force to monitor and share climate research, called the "Climate and Energy Task Force" (the "Task Force"). (Id.) The minutes from Task Force meetings show that the Task  [*469]  Force was aware of a scientific consensus on the likelihood of a significant global temperature rise resulting from increased carbon dioxide levels that would cause "globally catastrophic events." (Id.) Defendants' internal documents also demonstrate that Defendants were aware of the "catastrophic" threat that fossil fuels posed to the global climate. (Id. ¶¶ 85, 88.)

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325 F. Supp. 3d 466 *; 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 120934 **; 48 ELR 20128; 86 ERC (BNA) 2236; 2018 WL 3475470

CITY OF NEW YORK, Plaintiff, -against- BP P.L.C., CHEVRON CORPORATION, CONOCOPHILLIPS, EXXON MOBIL CORPORATION, and ROYAL DUTCH SHELL, PC, Defendants.

CORE TERMS

emissions, greenhouse, fossil, fuels, climate, federal common law, global, Air, Defendants', displaced, domestic, warming, pollution, fossil fuel, damages, gases, alleges, amended complaint, carbon dioxide, injuries, combustion, interstate, products, impacts, public nuisance, atmosphere, sea-level, worldwide, motion to dismiss, task force