February 1, 2024, Boulder, Colorado – Today, attorneys representing Boulder County and the City of Boulder in a lawsuit against Exxon and Suncor for their role in altering the climate and harming these communities appeared in court to refute motions to dismiss from the fossil fuel companies. The Colorado communities argue that Big Oil, which made billions of dollars selling fossil fuels while concealing and misrepresenting the dangers of the profligate fossil fuel use they promoted, should share some of the responsibility for the costs of climate injuries.
“These companies knew decades ago that their products would cause climate catastrophe, here in Colorado and around the world, but made billions selling fossil fuels while concealing the dangers,” said Marco Simons, General Counsel of EarthRights International, which represents the plaintiffs. “In court, they have wasted five years trying to move this case from local to federal courts, as climate impacts and costs continue to mount, and now they are trying to have it thrown out altogether. Communities in Colorado cannot afford to wait. Exxon and Suncor must pay their fair share of the climate costs that are burdening these communities and taxpayers.”
Boulder County and the City of Boulder, together with San Miguel County, first filed the lawsuit against Exxon and Suncor for their decades of misinformation and other contributions to the climate crisis in 2018. The communities argue that the worsening consequences of climate change in Colorado – including more frequent and destructive wildfires, reduced snowpack, heat waves, and more frequent and severe droughts – are outpacing their resources to address them and that these impacts should not fall disproportionately on taxpayers.
“The climate crisis has already cost Boulder County dearly,” said Boulder County Commissioner Ashley Stolzmann. “Our case against Exxon and Suncor, which started way back in 2018, seeks justice for community members who are paying all too much while these companies continue to profit. It’s time for a decisive ruling that ends our long wait and holds these polluters accountable.”
“The devastating impacts of climate change are accelerating, and our community continues to bear an increasing burden,” added City of Boulder Mayor Pro Tem Nicole Speer. “Taxpayers and local governments alone cannot foot the bill for climate change while those accountable continue to profit. Our pursuit of accountability is grounded in the belief that those responsible must bear their fair share of the costs inflicted upon our community.”
Shortly after the communities filed their case in Colorado state court, the oil companies sought to move the case to federal court. At every stage, the federal courts agreed with the plaintiffs that the case belonged in state court, but it still took until April 2023 for the issue to be resolved, when the Supreme Court turned down the companies’ last appeal.
Meanwhile, San Miguel County’s case was separated and is now being heard by a Denver judge.
In addition to EarthRights, the plaintiffs are represented by Kevin Hannon of Singleton Schreiber and the Law Offices of David Bookbinder. The case is one of dozens of similar climate litigation efforts in the U.S. Other active cases include those in Hawaii; California; Maryland; Washington, D.C.; Delaware; New York City; and Connecticut, among others.
Elaine Godwin (they/them)
Communications Coordinator, EarthRights International