King County Drops Suit Against Fossil Fuel Giants Chevron, Exxon, BP and Others

A Washington state court lawsuit accusing five large oil companies of influencing climate change has been dropped. King County, home to Seattle, accused fossil fuel companies, including Exxon Mobil, Chevron and BP Plc of contributing to current climate conditions like global warming.

A recent filing stated the county is voluntarily abandoning the suit. In the lawsuit, the county alleged the companies were a public nuisance and committed trespassing in their production and marketing of fossil fuels.

Over the last four years, two dozen state and municipal plaintiffs filed lawsuits similar to this one. King County is the first one to end its lawsuit. The case asked for hundreds of millions in damages caused by the manufacturing and marketing of fossil fuel.

King County lawyer Matthew Pawa did not comment, and King County did not respond to requests for comment.

The county wanted the companies to provide funding for planned spending to protect residents from rising sea levels, increased flooding and other projected changes in the climate caused by global warming.

Casey Norton, an Exxon spokesperson, said lawsuits like this don’t advance meaningful measures to reduce climate change and waste millions of taxpayer dollars. Paul, Weiss, Rifkind Wharton and Garrison represent Exxon.

There has been no comment from Chevron or BP. Theodore Boutrous of Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher is one of Chevron’s lawyers. Arnold and Porter Kaye Scholer represent BP in this matter.

Patrick Parenteau of Vermont Law School and Dan Farber of the California Berkeley School of Law — both environmental law experts — expressed surprise that the case ended so suddenly. However, Farber believes the county’s retreat from the suit may be a developing legal tactic.

Farber stated King County could be regearing its lawsuit to follow other states and municipalities that have focused their lawsuits on promotional claims. “I think it will give King County a stronger case,” Farber said.

Massachusetts, Vermont and other state attorneys’ generals filed lawsuits recently stating consumers are being deceived by fossil fuel companies about the harm their products cause. Some legal experts think these lawsuits have a better chance at success since the claims accuse companies of violating state law instead of the nuisance claim filed by King County.