The mayor of a small US town has sued the oil industry.Then Exxon chased him | Climate Crisis

Serge Dedina is a surfer, environmentalist and mayor of Imperial Beach, a small working-class city. California The coast.

He is also at the center of a plot to shake off hundreds of millions of dollars of big oil if the fossil fuel industry should be believed.

Imperial Beach, California

ExxonMobil and its allies have accused Dedina of colluding with other civil servants throughout California to steal money from the fossil fuel industry. Lawyers searched mobile phones and computers for evidence of planning with Santa Cruz officials, located nearly 500 miles north of Imperial Beach.

The problem is that Dedina had never heard of Santa Cruz’s plot. Few people had it.

“The only thing from Santa Cruz on my cell phone was a video of my kids surfing there,” Dedina said. “A lawyer in a very expensive suit sitting in a terrifying office trying to find evidence that we are plotting with Santa Cruz, watching a video of my kids surfing. I love the fact that I had to see. “

Laughter stopped here.

Lawyers could not find evidence to support their claim. But still, the industry did not stop using legal power to intimidate Dedina, who leads one of the poorest small cities in the region.

The mayor has since become a target Imperial Beach filed proceedings For ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, and more than 30 other fossil fuel companies that demand huge costs to protect cities from rising seas caused by the climate crisis.

A house along the last stretch of the Imperial Beach coast before reaching the Mexican border. Photo: John Francis Peters / Guardian

The Imperial Beach lawsuit alleges that oil giants have committed fraud by concealing research showing that burning fossil fuels can destroy the environment. Over the decades, the industry then lied about climate change evidence and deliberately delayed efforts to curb carbon emissions.

City lawsuits are one of the first waves of lawsuits filed by 20 municipalities and states across the United States that could cost the fossil fuel industry billions of dollars in compensation for environmental devastation and deception. bottom.

Dedina says a minority majority community of about 27,000 can’t afford the tens of millions of dollars it takes to keep the waters adjacent to the three sides of a financially deprived city away. say. NS The worst storm these days Transformed Imperial Beach into an island.

1 rating Without costly mitigations, we calculated that rising sea levels would eventually hit parts of the city’s neighborhood, routinely flooding the two schools and overwhelming the drainage system.

The annual budget for Imperial Beach is $ 20 million. Darren Woods, CEO of Exxon, received over $ 15 million in payments last year.

“There are no pots to urinate in this city, so why not chase after an oil company?” He said. “Proceedings are a practical approach to getting those who caused the rise to pay the price of the impact it had on our city.”


That’s not the way Exxon, the largest oil company in the United States, saw it. The lawyer said Imperial Beach filed a proceeding in July 2017 at the same time as two California counties, Marin and San Mateo. Six months later, the counties and cities of Santa Cruz filed a similar proceeding seeking compensation to deal with the increase in wildfires and droughts caused by global heating.

Exxon argued that the sudden explosion of the proceedings and the fact that the municipality shared Shah Edling, a law firm specializing in environmental cases, were evidence of collusion.

Exxon filed a lawsuit alleging that the municipality tried to steal money from the company, following a strategy developed nine years ago at an environmental conference at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, 25 miles north of Imperial Beach. rice field.

A conference hosted by the Institute for Climate Accountability and the Union of Concerned Scientists Report It outlines how the legal strategies used by US states against the tobacco industry in the 1990s can be applied to proceedings against fossil fuel companies.

Dedina is also at the forefront of industry resistance to tightening regulations to reduce greenhouse gases, the National Association of Manufacturers, one of the largest business groups in the United States, and the Energy and Environmental Legal Institute, a right-wing think tank. Targeted.

Mayor Dedina overlooks the sea.
Mayor Dedina overlooks the sea. Photo: John Francis Peters / Guardian

The manufacturing group was behind efforts to retrieve data from Dedina’s phones and documents in 2018.. In a public request to the mayor’s office, the NAM called the Imperial Beach proceedings “a proceeding based on political or idealistic opposition that was better addressed through the political process.”

Exxon seeks to use Texas law that allows businesses to go fishing expeditions to criminalize evidence by asking individuals under oath, even before the proceedings are filed. The company is trying to force two other members of the Imperial Beach government, Dedina and other jurisdiction officials, to submit to a cross-examination for participating in a plot against the oil industry.

“A gathering of special interests and opportunistic politicians is abusing law enforcement agencies and legal proceedings to impose their perspective on climate change.” Oil company insisted.. “ExxonMobil directly notices the crosshairs of the plot.”

A Texas district judge approved the request to dismiss Dedina, but the Court of Appeals subsequently overturned last year’s decision. The State Supreme Court is considering whether to take the case up.

Dedina’s target is part of a broader pattern of retaliation against those suing Exxon and other oil companies.

In a rare move in 2016, Exxon persuaded a Texas judge to order Maura Healey, the Attorney General of Massachusetts, to travel to Dallas. Take testimony about her motivation For investigating the company on suspicion of fraud that suppressed evidence of climate change. The judge also ordered New York Attorney General Erik Schneiderman to be “available” in Dallas on the same day, in case Exxon wants to ask him about a similar investigation.

Healy accused Exxon of “trying to crush the privileges of the Attorney General to do their job.” The judge overturned the testimony order a month later, and Healy filed a proceeding against the company in 2019, which is still awaiting trial.

However, a similar tactic persuaded the Attorney General of the US Virgin Islands to stop investigating the oil giant.

Patrick Parentou, a law professor and former director of the Vermont Law School’s Center for Environmental Law, said the attempt to ask Dedina and other officials is a broader strategy by the oil industry to counter the proceedings in its own proceedings. Said to be part of.

“These cases are frivolous and annoying. The goal is intimidation. But making it is expensive and it’s painful to take on an exon. They stop Imperial Beach when they make the case painful enough. I think it will be. “

The city's proceedings allege that they are facing a
The city’s proceedings allege that they are facing a “serious and dangerous sea level rise.” Photo: John Francis Peters / Guardian

If the purpose is to withdraw the proceedings against the oil industry, it is not working. Officials from other municipalities called Exxon’s move “disgust,” “fake,” and “outrageous,” and vowed to proceed with the proceedings.

Dedina described this action as a “bullying tactic” by the oil industry to avoid accountability.

“The only conspiracy is [that] Many lawsuits and fossil fuel companies have decided to pollute the planet and exacerbate climate change, and lied about it, “he said. “They make more money than the whole city has in a year.”

The city’s proceedings allege that they have faced “serious and dangerous sea-level rises” that threaten their existence throughout the rest of the century.Imperial beach Request analysis He concluded that nearly 700 homes and businesses were threatened at a cost of more than $ 100 million as a result of their vulnerability to rising sea levels. Floods are said to hit about 40% of the city’s roads. This includes roads that are submerged for long periods of time. Two elementary schools need to be relocated. Considered one of the best places to surf on the California coast, the city’s beaches are eroded about a foot a year.

Imperial Beach is located at the southern tip of San Diego Bay. In one of the worst scenarios, the bay could merge with the mouth of the Tijuana River in the south, permanently submerging many of the city’s homes and roads.

View of the mouth of the Tijuana River.
View of the mouth of the Tijuana River. Photo: John Francis Peters / Guardian

The city has received some assistance in creating natural climate barriers. The Fish and Wildlife Department is expected to restore 400 acres of wetlands adjacent to the city and other wetlands along with the Port of San Diego as a national wildlife sanctuary that also acts as a flood barrier. Subsidies are being paid for improved equipment to warn of floods.

However, there are still enormous costs associated with building new schools and drainage systems and adapting other infrastructure. Dedina said it wouldn’t happen if the oil company didn’t get stuck.

“How did people oppose the world’s largest fossil fuel company? Are you scared? No. The scary thing is the idea of ​​coastal floods and the submergence of the entire city,” the mayor said.

“Honestly, bring it. I can’t wait to make our point. I can’t wait to fight them because I have nothing to lose.”

This story is published as part of Now cover the climate, Global collaboration of media outlets to enhance coverage of climate stories

The mayor of a small US town has sued the oil industry.Then Exxon chased him | Climate Crisis

Source link The mayor of a small US town has sued the oil industry.Then Exxon chased him | Climate Crisis

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