June 23, 2024
Annapolis, US 93 F

City of Annapolis Sues Big Oil for Costs Associated with Climate Change

In a lawsuit filed Monday, the City of Annapolis, Maryland seeks to hold Exxon, Chevron, BP, Shell, the American Petroleum Institute and more than 20 additional fossil fuel companies accountable for the costs and consequences of climate change.  Filed in Maryland Circuit Court in Anne Arundel County, the City’s complaint alleges six causes of action, including public and private nuisance, negligence,  failure to warn, trespass, and violations of Maryland’s Consumer Protection Act.

“This lawsuit is all about accountability and determining who should pay the high costs of dealing with climate change,” said Mayor Gavin Buckley. “Annapolis residents and businesses pay the price for the damage inflicted on our infrastructure due to increased flooding caused by sea level rise. Fossil fuel companies knew the danger, concealed their knowledge, and reaped the profits. It is time we held them  accountable.”

“Defendants have known for decades that climate change impacts could be catastrophic, and that only a narrow window existed to take action before the consequences would be irreversible,” according to the City’s lawsuit. In addition, it notes that, as a result of Defendants’ conduct, “the City has suffered and will continue to suffer severe injuries, including, but not limited to: inundation and loss of City property; inundation of historic properties, private property, and businesses, with associated loss of tax revenue; injury or destruction of City-owned or -operated infrastructure critical for operations and utility services, as well as other historical and cultural assets; increased costs of maintaining public infrastructure; [and] increased planning and preparation costs for community adaptation and resiliency to the effects of the climate crisis.”

Noting that climate change “will disproportionately impact people of color, people living in poverty, and other vulnerable communities” and that Annapolis has endured the greatest recorded increase in nuisance flooding events of any U.S. city over the last 50 years, the complaint details significant impacts to the City, including:

  • …in 2019, flooding occurred 65 times at Annapolis’ City Dock. Studies predict the City will experience almost 200 annual flood days by 2030 and 350 annual flood days by 2040.

  • Climate change is stressing the City’s unique cultural and historical resources through flooding-related impacts on the Annapolis Historic District and its nationally significant historic properties…Businesses in the Historic District generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue annually, yet regular flooding already causes lost business revenue and associated harms to the City.

  • The City has already begun a significant renovation and resiliency project to protect the City Dock and related structures from flooding caused by sea level rise. Specifically, in 2020 the City adopted a plan to renovate the City Dock, and to fully demolish and rebuild the Hillman Garage parking structure, which is already subject to regular flooding and which sits fewer than 500 feet from both the City Dock and the Maryland State House. The City determined the plan was expressly necessary to “address ongoing and future tidal flooding and storm surge issues” at the City Dock and the Hillman Garage. The City has awarded a predevelopment agreement for the combined project, projected to cost at least $56 million, making it the largest construction project in Annapolis history. The City will likely incur substantial debt to finance the project, projected to be complete within the next five years. By 2040, the City estimates it will also have to spend more than $45 million, or $1,159 per capita, on four miles of seawalls to mitigate the impacts of sea level rise and storm surge.

“If we are going to take care of our residents and honor our important history as a community, we need to be resilient in the face of climate change,” added Buckley. “Mitigating the impacts of climate change is expensive. We would not have to spend the kind of money we are forced to spend but for the actions of the fossil fuel industry. This lawsuit shifts the costs back to where they belong, on those whose knowledge, deception and pursuit of profits brought these dangers to our shores.”

Annapolis is the 25th state or local government across the country to file similar litigation, and more than one in every ten Americans now lives within a jurisdiction bringing these cases.  Annapolis is working with Sher Edling LLP as outside counsel, on a contingency fee basis, so there are no out-of-pocket costs to City taxpayers.

The City will be holding a press conference later this morning with more details.

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