Hawaii Attorney General Clare E. Connors is supporting county claims that several major fossil fuel companies should be held accountable for deceptive trade practices and other violations of state law.
Connors on Friday filed an amicus brief in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit supporting Honolulu County and Maui County claims that companies including Aloha Petroleum Ltd., ExxonMobil and Chevron corporations, knowingly misled consumers about the harmful effects of fossil fuels and contributed to climate change.
Honolulu filed suit against the companies last March in the First Circuit Court of Hawaii, saying oil corporations, and not taxpayers, should be held accountable for the damaging impacts of fossil fuels. Maui County filed suit against the companies in the Second Circuit Court of Hawaii last October, saying they were part of a decades-long campaign of deception and that the rising costs and impacts of climate have been felt there in the form of chronic drought, sustained heat waves and worsening coastal erosion.
These oil companies, the brief said, are liable for damages and other costs associated with this deliberate campaign to confuse the public and maintain their profits.
In addition, the state agrees with a federal district court judge that state courts – not a federal court — should have jurisdiction over the two Hawaii lawsuits filed against fossil fuel companies. This move, according to the state attorney general’s news release, is an attempt by the oil companies to avoid being held accountable in the state justice system.
The cases are currently pending in the Ninth Circuit following the companies’ appeal of the decision.
“Hawaii is an island state dependent on the health of its natural environment, which is home to a diverse and fragile range of species not found anywhere else on the planet,” said Connors in a news release. “For decades, Big Oil knowingly deceived consumers about the harmful impact of its products on our environment and in support of the Counties’ efforts to hold these companies accountable, we urge the Ninth Circuit to allow these cases to proceed in state court, where they belong.”
Connors said Hawaii and other states are witnessing the catastrophic results of climate change, whether it be wildfires and heat waves; sea-level rise and precipitation changes; or other changes that affect agriculture and food production.
Hawaii has experienced the substantial erosion of its beaches due to rising sea levels, she said, and significant loss of living coral reefs due to rising ocean temperatures. Furthermore, these impacts, along with more severe weather events, are expected to worsen, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Last year, weather events including a record number of named tropical storms in the Atlantic and active wildfires cost an unprecedented $22 billion, the highest amount recorded since the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration began tracking the cost of these disasters.
The attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington, and the District of Columbia also signed the amicus brief.