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Should LA sue oil companies over climate change and would the suit stand a chance?




Mike Bonin at a Los Angeles City Council meeting on August 6th, 2013. Bonin moved to sue oil companies for their contributions to climate change and their negative effects on LA on Jan. 12, 2018.
Mike Bonin at a Los Angeles City Council meeting on August 6th, 2013. Bonin moved to sue oil companies for their contributions to climate change and their negative effects on LA on Jan. 12, 2018.
Mae Ryan/KPCC

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As Southern California recovers from the wildfires and mudslides, two L.A. Councilmembers are pushing a proposal for the city to sue oil companies and get financial reimbursement for “knowing that their business practice was contributing to climate change and doing nothing to stop their destructive ways.”

The current move is preliminary, calling for a meeting with City Attorney Mike Feuer to discuss potential legal claims and also calling on the city to file an amicus brief in a similar claim made by New York city against five prominent oil companies, including Chevron and ExxonMobil.

Similar climate change suits have also been filed by San Francisco and Oakland. Critics of the move say individual oil companies can’t be held responsible for the effects of climate change, and that this claim focuses on the negatives of oil production without looking at the benefits.

Is this a feasible lawsuit? Would it be a wise policy move for Los Angeles to sue petroleum companies? Is there any precedent for this case?

Guests:

Richard Frank. professor of Environmental Practice and director of the California Environmental Law & Policy Center at the University of California, Davis school of law

Damien Schiff, a senior attorney with the Pacific Legal Foundation; he focuses on federal and state environmental and land-use issues