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Honolulu files suit against fossil fuel corporations over mounting costs of climate change

  • CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                City leaders announce today the filing of a lawsuit holding large fossil fuel companies accountable for the costs and consequences of climate change on Honolulu and its taxpayers. From left, Department of Facility Maintenance Director Ross Sasamura, Chief Resilience Officer and Executive Director of the Office of Climate Change, Sustainability and Resiliency Josh Stanbro, Honolulu City Councilman Joey Manahan, and Acting Corporation Counsel Paul Aoki.

    CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARADVERTISER.COM

    City leaders announce today the filing of a lawsuit holding large fossil fuel companies accountable for the costs and consequences of climate change on Honolulu and its taxpayers. From left, Department of Facility Maintenance Director Ross Sasamura, Chief Resilience Officer and Executive Director of the Office of Climate Change, Sustainability and Resiliency Josh Stanbro, Honolulu City Councilman Joey Manahan, and Acting Corporation Counsel Paul Aoki.

The City and County of Honolulu filed a lawsuit today against a long list of oil corporations in state Circuit Court, seeking damages for the mounting costs of dealing with climate change.

In doing so, Honolulu joins more than a dozen other cities and jurisdictions, including San Francisco, New York, and Baltimore, Md.

“This case filed this morning is about infrastructure and it’s about the damages and costs associated with climate change to our city,” said Josh Stanbro, the city’s chief resilience officer, at a news conference this morning outside of the courthouse. “We have seen over a dozen cities and counties file complaints about the costs they are unjustly having to bear around climate change and its impacts due to the information that’s been withheld over time by the fossil fuel corporations.”

Stanbro said similar to the tobacco industry and pharmaceutical companies, oil corporations withheld information from the public while continuing to sell dangerous products, and that this suit was about holding them accountable.

“It’s about making sure that corporations play by the rules, disclose known problems with their products and when they don’t do that — that they’re held accountable to cover the costs that the rest of society is having to bear, including cities and local government,” he said.

The suit seeks no specified amount in damages, but Stanbro, along with Honolulu City Councilman Joey Manahan, said billions of dollars were at stake.

Based on studies, Stanbro said sea-level rise on Oahu is expected to result in an estimated $12.9 billion of loss and damage to private property. Another report for the state Department of Transportation estimates it would cost about $15 billion to relocate or elevate state roads impacted by sea level rise by the end of the century.

Acting Honolulu Corporation Counsel Paul Aoki filed the suit with Sher Edling LLP of San Francisco, on behalf of the city against a long list of oil corporations, including Sunoco LP, Aloha Petroleum Ltd., Mobil Corp., ExxonMobil Oil Corp., Shell Oil Company, Chevron Corp. and others.

“I am proud today that the City and County of Honolulu is leading the charge to hold Big Oil accountable for their decades-long misinformation campaign — they knowingly threw our planet headlong into the climate crisis,” said Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell in a news release. “The people of Oahu and people everywhere deserve to see that a portion of the massive profits these corporations have raked in now help pay for the damages that they have caused to our island.”

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