February 5, 2021
Colorado communities’ lawsuit against oil giants to continue in local court
Boulder District Court will hear Boulder, Boulder County climate liability suit against ExxonMobil and Suncor Energy
Boulder County, Colo. — Judge Judith LaBuda ruled last week that the landmark climate liability lawsuit brought by Boulder County and the City of Boulder would continue in Boulder District Court, denying a motion by Suncor Energy to move the case to Denver.
“After a year of climate-fueled wildfires and poor air quality, it is clear that the climate crisis is profoundly impacting Boulder County,” said Matt Jones, chair, Boulder County Board of County Commissioners. “Our communities will continue to face the rising costs associated with climate change. As such, we believe that these companies’ roles in altering climate should be considered by a Boulder County jury.”
While Judge LaBuda ruled that the Boulder and Boulder County portions of the lawsuit may continue in Boulder District Court, she also granted Suncor’s motion to move San Miguel County's claims.
“We do believe that it makes sense to hear the whole case together, and we continue to review this decision,” said Marco Simons, general counsel for Earth Rights International.
“San Miguel County is pleased that the court is continuing to allow us to seek financial assistance from Suncor and Exxon with the mounting costs of mitigation actions needed to address a rapidly changing climate,” said Hilary Cooper, San Miguel County Board of Commissioners. “We do not think those costs should be the full responsibility of our taxpayers.”
Because another defendant, ExxonMobil, did not join Suncor’s motion, the judge's order allows San Miguel County’s claims against Exxon to continue in Boulder County. On Jan. 28, however, Exxon filed a motion asking for San Miguel County's claims against it to also be moved out of Boulder.
In April 2018, the Colorado communities of Boulder County, San Miguel County, and the City of Boulder—with legal support from EarthRights International, Hannon Law Firm, and Niskanen Center—filed a lawsuit against Suncor and ExxonMobil, two oil companies with significant responsibility for climate change. The communities have demanded that these companies pay their fair share of the costs associated with climate change impacts so that the costs do not fall disproportionately on taxpayers.
Over the next three decades, these communities will face an estimated one hundred million dollars in costs to deal with the impacts of climate change caused by the use of fossil fuel products like those made, promoted, and sold by Suncor and Exxon.
Suncor and Exxon have known about the costly consequences of fossil fuel use for more than 50 years, yet they continued to promote and sell their products, while recklessly deceiving the public and policymakers about the dangers of their use.
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Our mission is to advance policies and programs that conserve resources, protect the environment, and safeguard our climate in order to build a sustainable, just, and resilient community.