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Colorado counties sue Exxon, Suncor over climate change

US News & World Report
Alexa Lardieri
Suncor Energy Refinery on April 19, 2018 in Commerce City, Colorado.
RJ Sangosti | The Denver Post | Getty Images

Boulder and San Miguel counties in Colorado are suing ExxonMobil and Suncor Energy for their effects on the environment and their negative contributions to climate change.

Up until this point climate change lawsuits have been limited to coastal cities worried about sea level rise. However, these Colorado cities say they are feeling the negative effects of climate change, too, namely when it comes to snow loss.

"These impacts have already harmed Plaintiffs' property and impacted the health, safety and welfare [of] their residents. The damages will only multiply as climate change worsens," the lawsuit reads.

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The lawsuit claims "that fossil fuel combustion was causing a dramatic rise in the concentration of GHGs in the atmosphere," which causes "significant temperature changes" and "dramatic climatic changes." Because of the increase in temperature, there is dwindling snowpack in the state, which is vital for Colorado's agriculture, water supply and $5 billion ski industry.

The snowpack in the southern Colorado mountains was less than 50 percent of normal this month, InsideClimate News reported. The rise in temperature increases the risk of wildfires, extreme summertime heat and droughts. The dwindling snow also raises concerns about water flow to the Colorado river.

In the lawsuit, the Colorado plaintiffs claim Exxon and the Canadian oil sands company Suncor "substantially contributed to and exacerbated the impacts of human-caused climate change, thereby substantially contributing to Plaintiffs' injuries."

The counties also claim the companies violated the Colorado Consumer Protection Act, claiming the companies engaged in "deceptive trade practices."

The lawsuit's goal is not to stop or regulate the production of fossil fuels in Colorado. The plaintiffs are asking the companies "help remediate the nuisance caused by their intentional, reckless and negligent conduct, specifically by paying their share of the Plaintiffs' abatement costs."

These include costs related to damages from wildfires, flood control efforts, healthcare expenses and loss of land value.

"The costs should be shared by the Suncor and Exxon defendants because they knowingly and substantially contributed to the climate crisis by producing, promoting and selling a substantial portion of the fossil fuels that are causing and exacerbating climate change, while concealing and misrepresenting the dangers associated with their intended use," the lawsuit states.

Suncor Energy did not respond to a request for comment from Bloomberg. However, Exxon spokesman Scott Silvestri told Bloomberg reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a global concern that requires worldwide cooperation.

"Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a global issue and requires global participation and actions," Silvestri said. "Lawsuits like this — filed by trial attorneys against an industry that provides products we all rely upon to power the economy and enable our domestic life — simply do not do that."