Climate crusaders take a novel approach in mounting their newest anti-oil lawsuit

Climate crusaders take a novel approach in mounting their newest anti-oil lawsuit
Image: ESB Professional/Shutterstock

By Chris White

One of the law firms engaging in lawsuits against various energy companies is suing dozens of oil producers on behalf of a prominent fisherman’s association.

The angle shows attorneys are broadening their legal pursuit of Exxon and others.

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The Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA) filed a lawsuit Wednesday targeting oil companies for hurting the fishing industry in California and Oregon. Lawyers with Sher Edling, which filed the suit, claim the energy providers failed to warn their clients about the effects fossil fuels have on the climate.

“We’re taking a stand for the captains and crew, their families, and the business owners that support the fleet,” Noah Oppenheim, PCFFA’s executive director, said in a press statement attached to the lawsuit.

His group also notes that portions of the Dungeness crab fishery have been closed early in part because of what activists say is an increase in global temperatures.

Oppenheim added: “We are seeking to implement measures, at the fossil fuel industry’s expense, that will help crabbers adapt to a world in which domoic acid flare-up’s will be increasingly common, and also help those crabbers who suffer financial losses as a result.”

The lawsuit cites fisherman John Beardon of California, who said “it’s obvious the oceans are getting warmer.”

Supporters of energy industry attacked the lawsuit.

“Over the past year and a half, we have seen this very law firm file this same litigation on behalf of several municipalities and one state, and their copy-and-paste legal strategy has yet to succeed,” Manufacturing Accountability Project Executive Director Lindsey de la Torre said in a statement to The Daily Caller News Foundation. “These nuisance cases harm manufacturers.”

The Oregon-based law firm assisted in a lawsuit Baltimore, Md. lodged against two dozen fossil fuel producers in July. It’s one of more than 13 complaints from state and local governments trying to sue fossil fuel companies over global warming. Baltimore, like the others, is trying to apply public nuisance lawsuits to the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. (RELATED: NY Sues Exxon For Allegedly Defrauding Shareholders On Climate Change Risks)

Sher Edling also worked with six California cities and counties, as well as the state of Rhode Island, to sue fossil fuel companies over global warming. There are several other law firms involved in similar climate litigation, many of which stand to make a sizable profit regardless the lawsuit’s outcome.

Class action firm Hagens Berman Sobol, for instance, is handling lawsuits for San Francisco, Oakland and New York City on a contingency fee basis. Cities pay law firms no upfront cost in exchange for a percentage of any winnings or settlement. Hagens stands to pull in billions.

New York also targeted Exxon with a climate lawsuit making its way through the courts.

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