Baltimore May Receive Treasure Trove of Documents Showing Fossil Fuel Company Wrongdoing

Statement by Ken Kimmell, President, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Oct 2, 2019

10/3/19 Update: After posting this release, we learned that the fossil fuel company defendants in Baltimore’s lawsuit have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to halt the legal proceedings until the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decides whether the case should be heard in federal or state court. The Fourth Circuit may take up this case as early as December of this year.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (October 2, 2019)—A federal appellate judge has ruled that Baltimore can demand internal documents from the fossil fuel companies the city has sued. The suit alleges ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, Shell, and 22 other companies are responsible for the increasingly severe climate impacts the city is facing.

The corporations tried to block the discovery process until an appeals court decides whether the case should be heard in federal, not state court, as the corporations claim. But yesterday, the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals refused to halt the case pending that decision, allowing Baltimore to move to the discovery process and demand documents. No other climate change nuisance lawsuit has reached this stage.

Below is a statement by Ken Kimmell, the president of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“This ruling means that a treasure trove of documents may be coming Baltimore’s way. With this ruling, Baltimore should receive material that is likely to shed significant light on how the companies—with knowledge of their top executives—intentionally deceived the public about the harm their products caused.

“Journalists and nonprofit organizations already have turned up documents showing that decades ago ExxonMobil, Shell and others knew that fossil fuel emissions were causing climate change. Instead of acknowledging the problem, fossil fuel companies spent millions of dollars to confuse the public about global warming’s causes and countless hours lobbying against state and federal policies that sought to limit emissions. In fighting to protect its profits, fossil fuel giants let the impacts of climate change grow.

“As a result, Baltimore and other cities are dealing with massive impacts, including more frequent and severe heat waves, more damaging hurricanes, torrential rainfalls and rising seas. Communities across the country are filing lawsuits to seek compensation from major fossil fuel producers to cover the costs of battling the climate impacts that could have been avoided.”

See UCS’ “Underwater” analysis that found Baltimore residents can expect some 2,400 homes that currently represent roughly $17 million in local property taxes to be effectively inundated by high tide flooding by the end of the century.

See UCS’ “Killer heat” analysis that found historically, in Maryland, there have been five days per year on average with a heat index above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Without action to reduce global warming emissions, this would increase to 33 days per year on average by midcentury and 59 by the century’s end.

Polling conducted by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communications revealed that 63 percent of Maryland residents and 67 percent of Baltimore residents support fossil fuel companies paying for global warming damages, demonstrating that the public is solidly behind the city in its efforts to hold fossil fuel companies accountable for global warming damages.