Anne Arundel Co. Sues Fossil Fuel Companies Over Climate Damage

Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman (D) on the campaign trail in 2018. File photo by Josh Kurtz.

Anne Arundel County has filed a lawsuit against more than two dozen fossil fuel companies over the costs of dealing with the fallout of climate change.

“Filing this suit is about protecting our taxpayers and businesses from the growing fiscal impacts of climate change,” County Executive Steuart Pittman (D) said in a statement. “The damage inflicted by these companies damages our environment, and creates massive costs that shouldn’t be borne on the backs of our residents.”

The lawsuit seeks to help Anne Arundel County recover damages from companies whose “decades of deception” is harming land and infrastructure in the county, officials said. It cites the local effects of climate change, including the threats that sea level rise, flooding, and inundation pose to thousands of residents and homes across the county.

The county has about 530 miles of shoreline.

Anne Arundel County Attorney Gregory J. Swain said “the complaints are similar” to a lawsuit filed against fossil fuel companies by the City of Annapolis in February. The county is using the same law firm as the city, Swain added.

The lawsuit looks for compensatory and punitive damages, and includes public-nuisance and other claims. The suit names 26 plaintiffs, including industry giants BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell Oil, Citgo and the American Petroleum Institute.

Richard Wiles, executive director of the Center for Climate Integrity, applauded the county’s lawsuit.

“Big Oil’s decades of climate deception have brought the world to the brink and cost communities across the country millions,” he said in a statement. “It’s only right that local governments are saying enough and turning to the courts for justice. The industry fights these cases vigorously because they’re afraid of the damning evidence against them — as they should be.”

Since 2017, five states — Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Rhode Island — along with the District of Columbia and 20 local governments have filed lawsuits against the oil and gas industry over climate change.

A Baltimore City lawsuit filed against the industry in 2018 is under review in the U.S. Supreme Court.

API, which represents 600 oil and gas companies, did not immediately respond to Anne Arundel’s lawsuit. But last month, the industry released a plan for confronting climate change that called for more government investments in clean energy and carbon capture technology, greater regulation of methane gas emissions, and enactment of a carbon tax

“We know that climate change is real, and we’re focused on addressing the key risks of climate change,” API CEO Mike Sommers said in an interview with Yahoo! Finance last week. “As a consequence of that, we’ve been working for many years on developing policies to address the challenge of climate change.”

Rick Massimo of WTOP News contributed reporting to this story.

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Josh Kurtz
Founding Editor Josh Kurtz is a veteran chronicler of Maryland politics and government. He began covering the State House in 1995 for The Gazette newspapers, and has been writing about state and local politics ever since. He was an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, for eight years, and for eight years was the editor of E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill. For 6 1/2 years Kurtz wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz regularly gives speeches and appears on TV and radio shows to discuss Maryland politics.