Chicago sues oil companies for causing climate change, points to 1995 heat wave

The city of Chicago filed a sprawling lawsuit against six of the world’s largest oil and gas companies and a leading energy industry association, accusing them of deceiving consumers in the city about the “climate dangers” posed by fossil fuels.

In its nearly 200-page complaint filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County late Tuesday, Chicago listed BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Phillips 66, Shell and the American Petroleum Institute (API) as defendants. The filing blames the companies for causing global warming broadly and a series of specific deadly weather events in the city stretching back decades.

“There is no justice without accountability,” Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson said in a statement. “From the unprecedented poor air quality that we experienced last summer to the basement floodings that our residents on the West Side experienced, the consequences of this crisis are severe, as are the costs of surviving them. That is why we are seeking to hold these defendants accountable.”

“Evidence shows that these defendants intentionally misled Chicago residents about the climate change-related dangers associated with their oil and gas products. If unabated, climate change could result in catastrophic impacts on our city,” added Chicago counsel Mary Richardson-Lowry. “We bring this lawsuit to ensure that the defendants who have profited from the deception campaign bear responsibility for their conduct.”


Chicago’s lawsuit seeks relief in the form of hundreds of millions of dollars in compensatory and loss-of-use damages, and penalties and fines for statutory violations. It also seeks disgorgement of profits and enjoining the companies from “engaging in the deceptive and unfair acts and practices alleged in the lawsuit.”

While the city did not immediately publish a copy of the complaint, a copy obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times shows that it alleges 11 counts of fraud, nuisance, conspiracy and negligence.

Additionally, the complaint points to a 1995 heat wave which claimed the lives of more than 700 residents as evidence of the dangers posed by fossil fuels. It also blames the oil companies for extreme heat, increased rain and flooding.


“The record of the past two decades demonstrates that the industry has achieved its goal of providing affordable, reliable American energy to U.S. consumers while substantially reducing emissions and our environmental footprint,” API Senior Vice President and General Counsel Ryan Meyers told Fox News Digital in a statement. 

“This ongoing, coordinated campaign to wage meritless, politicized lawsuits against a foundational American industry and its workers is nothing more than a distraction from important national conversations and an enormous waste of taxpayer resources,” Meyers continued. “Climate policy is for Congress to debate and decide, not a patchwork of city halls and courts.”

The complaint, meanwhile, closely mirrors similar lawsuits filed by states, cities and counties nationwide. Chicago is being represented by the California law firm Sher Edling, which has spearheaded such climate-related public nuisance lawsuits arguing that oil companies are financially responsible for global warming.


The firm has filed cases on behalf of Rhode Island, New Jersey, Delaware, Minnesota, New York City, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Baltimore, Honolulu and local governments across the country. In January, a judge consolidated seven of Sher Edling’s local climate cases in California with the state government’s case, meaning the firm effectively has a role in the deception case filed by the State of California as well.

Sher Edling, which was founded in 2016 with the stated goal of taking on such litigation, states on its website that its climate practice seeks to hold oil companies like ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP and Shell accountable for their alleged “deception” about climate change.

The firm has raised millions of dollars from liberal dark money nonprofits to fund its pursuits. While the entirety of Sher Edling’s funding structure is unknown, the firm has for years taken donations from a pass-through fund managed by the left-wing New Venture Fund, whose individual donors are obscured from public view, meaning donors are able to remain anonymous.

“Big Oil has lied to the American people for decades about the catastrophic climate risks of their products, and now Chicago and communities across the country are rightfully insisting they pay for the damage they’ve caused,” said Richard Wiles, the president of the Center for Climate Integrity, which has advocated for the lawsuits.

“With Chicago, the nation’s third-largest city, joining the fray, there is no doubt that we are witnessing a historic wave of lawsuits that could finally hold Big Oil accountable for the climate crisis they knowingly caused.”

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