Oil Corporations Defeat City’s Claim

A Chevron oil tanker. Chevron was one of five companies sued by the City of New York over climate change. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Lahti213

The City sued major oil companies for flood damage and climate change costs. On January 8, 2018, The City of New York filed a related lawsuit in federal court against BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobile Corporation, and Royal Dutch Shell, PC, the five largest fossil fuel producers in the world. The City alleged that the oil companies downplayed the risks of climate change and promoted the use of fossil fuels despite environmental risks. The City sought to hold the oil companies liable for injuries to New York City from sea-level rise.

The City asserted that the burning of fossil fuels was the primary cause of climate change and that the oil companies were collectively responsible for over eleven percent of all the carbon and methane pollution in the air since the Industrial Revolution. The City asserted theories based on public nuisance, private nuisance and trespass, and asked for monetary damages and an injunction.

On July 19, 2018, United State District Judge John F. Keenan dismissed the City’s lawsuit against the oil companies. Judge Keenan held that the City’s global warming claims could only be pursued under federal common law and not state law, and that the nuisance and trespass claims were displaced by the Federal Clean Air Act. Judge Keenan opined that the political branches, not the courts, have the duty and capacity to deal with foreign global warming policy concerns.


(CIT)City of New York v. BP P.L.C., 325 F. Supp. 3d 466 (S.D.N.Y. 2018).


By: Steven Paskowitz (Steven is a New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2019.)

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