Anne Arundel County Files Suit to Protect Taxpayers from Fossil Fuel Industry-Caused Damage from Climate Change
County cites industry’s legacy of deception about the costs and consequences of climate change
Annapolis, MD (April 27, 2021) - County Executive Steuart Pittman and Anne Arundel County Attorney Greg Swain announced today that the County filed suit in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court to hold more than two dozen fossil fuel companies accountable for costs the County is incurring to survive the consequences 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 said. “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 public and private land and infrastructure in the County. 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. According to the complaint:
“Climate change will have and has already had devastating economic and public health impacts throughout Anne Arundel County, Maryland, and will disproportionately impact people of color, people living in poverty, and other vulnerable communities. 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. They have nevertheless engaged in a coordinated, multi-front effort to conceal and deny their own knowledge of those threats, to discredit the growing body of publicly available scientific evidence, and to persistently create doubt in the minds of customers, consumers, regulators, the media, journalists, teachers, and the public about the reality and consequences of the impacts of their fossil fuel products.” [citations omitted]
“Big Oil has known for decades that burning fossil fuels would cause catastrophic climate damage. Instead of changing course, they orchestrated a campaign of deception, made billions in profit and left communities to pay the price,” said Mike Tidwell, Executive Director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.
Anne Arundel County’s more than 530 miles of shoreline make it particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, including inland and coastal flooding, sea level rise, and storm surge. The County’s lawsuit seeks to ensure the local financial burden of these companies’ actions do not fall solely on County taxpayers, workers, and businesses.
“Anne Arundel County is already being challenged by climate change,” said Chesapeake Bay Foundation Maryland Executive Director Josh Kurtz. “We’re seeing more tidal flooding along the county’s lengthy shoreline, warmer water temperatures, and intense storms tallying up record rainfalls. All of this exacerbates the Chesapeake Bay’s pollution issues and results in larger and longer-lasting algal blooms as well as dead zones devoid of marine life. To slow down these changes, we must reduce the use of fossil fuels. We believe Anne Arundel County and other jurisdictions holding companies accountable for their role in climate change will force the companies to reckon with the harm they’re doing to communities.”
The County’s suit includes causes of action involving public and private nuisance, among other claims. The County is seeking compensatory and punitive damages along with abatement of nuisances, among other remedies.
“Anne Arudel County filed suit in order to hold the fossil fuel industry defendants accountable for their decades-long campaigns of deception about the science of climate change and the role their products play in causing it, as well as their failure to take steps to avoid the harm they knew would arise from the use of their products or even to warn anyone about it,” County Attorney Greg Swain said.