Oil Giant Sues Other Oil Giant Over Climate Change Because This Is Our World Now

Photo: Getty
Photo: Getty

Last fall, the cities of Oakland and San Francisco sued oil behemoth Chevron for billions of dollars because of its role in causing climate change. Chevron is, of course, fighting the case, but if it loses, it wants to take down another oil company with it.

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In a complaint filed in December and highlighted by Emily Atkin at The New Republic on Thursday, Chevron decided to file a third party suit against Norway’s state oil company, Statoil.

The reason? Because Chevron believes Statoil is responsible for climate change. Here’s what Chevron lawyers submitted while also claiming the Oakland and San Francisco suit is frivolous:

“While Chevron agrees that the Plaintiffs’ claims are meritless, for the reasons stated below, Statoil (an agency or instrumentality of Norway)—as well as potentially the many other sovereign governments that use and promote fossil fuels—must be joined as third-party defendants in this matter.”

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The whole thing feels like the last scene of Reservoir Dogs.

The Bay Area case is one of a growing cadre of across the country against oil majors for their role in causing climate change, as well as covering up research and sowing doubt about it. These types of sprawling cases, where billions of dollars are at stake, often result in third party complaints like the one Chevron just filed in the Bay Area.

This is one of the first, if not the first, third party complaint filed in any of the climate lawsuits, though it’s curious only one company was singled out. In at least one other case in California, Statoil was likely dropped from the list of defendants because as a foreign entity, it was entitled to getting the case tried in federal as opposed to state court. It’s not immediately clear why Chevron decided to ask them to be added as a defendant in this case.

Chevron is the single largest source of historical carbon emissions of any oil company. All those emissions have in turn contributed more to global warming and sea level rise since 1880 than any other oil company.

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The company’s defense in the Oakland and California lawsuit is that it was just the dealer that provided the fossil fuels. Climate change is the fault of you, me and everyone who used the fossil fuels by burning them, meaning Chevron isn’t liable for any damages unleashed by rising seas, warming temperatures, and more gnarly weather.

It’s possible this, and other parts of Chevron’s argument, means the company won’t have to pay up. But if it does, it wants to ensure Statoil does, too.

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[h/t The New Republic]

Managing editor, Earther

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DISCUSSION

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Oh god, this is 1980s through mid 1990s superfund redux. Instead of a uncontrolled chemical waste dump fucking up the local groundwater, we’re talking the entire planet being fucked by carbon emissions.

The EPA had essentially (very essentially or generally) two legal options to assign liability for a superfund site and have the responsible party(s) pay for cleanup: an administration order and a unilateral order. Administrative is when EPA takes the lead to start the investigation and then sues any and all responsible parties. There are essentially two types of responsible parties: de maximus and de minimis or bigtime responsible and barely responsible. Typically de minimis pools together and each one writes a small check and removes themselves from the matter. De maximus groups together and pays lion’s share and closely manages the process of cleanup.

A unilateral order is when there’s essentially one responsible party identified and it takes the lead on the effort. EPA is removed and is simply an agent for the state (or US government). For instance, a hazardous waste landfill may be owned by one company. Without a doubt it’s the responsible party. It’s to its advantage to cut the legal liability (i.e. cost of lawyers) and take on complete management control. They then recoup cost by suing the fuck out of any customer who may or may not have dumped their shit in the landfill.

So there are some superfund sites with a conference room of major parties and their lawyers, an EPA dude/dudette and a flock of environmental consultants.

So take the cluster fuck of a solvents dump and multiply it by lots and lots and that’s global warming mitigation and adaptation liability and cost recovery.

For assignment of global warming liability, about 7.2 billion of us would be considered de minimis and major carbon emitters de maximus.

Brian is right, this is Reservoir Dogs.

Norwegian Statoil has tried to be the sustainable major. It’s also the source of Norway’s sovereign wealth fund of about a trillion bucks. US majors a going after the nice norwegians like the Chicago outfit gets every player on the same page.