Wave of Climate Change Tort Suits Against Industry Continues

In the latest effort by municipalities seeking to hold fossil fuel companies liable for their alleged contribution to climate change, the city and county of Boulder, Colorado, and the county of San Miguel, Colorado, filed suit against two companies on 17 April. Board of Commissioners of Boulder County et al. v. Suncor Energy (USA) Inc. et al., (District Court, Boulder County, Colorado) is the first such lawsuit by noncoastal communities against the fossil fuel industry.

Other similar lawsuits filed last year by coastal municipalities and counties in California and New York City seek to hold those companies liable for the costs to be incurred by them in dealing with climate change effects in their jurisdictions, including sea level rise. Those all remain pending in different courts in various procedural postures. No decision on the merits has been issued in any of those cases.

The Colorado suit asserts claims of public and private nuisance, trespass, and unjust enrichment, as well as violations of Colorado consumer protection laws. The suit asserts, among other things, that the defendants, through the production, promotion, marketing, and sale of fossil fuels, knowingly contributed to climate change generally and, more specifically in the case of the Colorado communities, effects to fragile high-altitude ecosystems, increased wildfires, and increased flooding and drainage.

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