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Office of Oakland City Attorney Barbara J. Parker
Alex Katz
Chief of Staff
(510) 238-3148

Office of San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera
John Coté, Communications Director
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News from:
Office of Oakland City Attorney Barbara J. Parker

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Oakland City Attorney Barbara J. Parker remarks from Sept. 20, 2017 press conference announcing climate change lawsuits

Good morning. Thank you all for being here.

Thank you CITY ATTORNEY DENNIS HERRERA for hosting us at this beautiful, spectacular location with our great City of Oakland just across the Bay as a backdrop.

I am very pleased to join San Francisco City Attorney Herrera in suing to make the world’s 5 largest publicly owned oil and gas companies – BIG OIL – pay the cost of protecting the people and the property of Oakland and SF from climate change caused.by defendants’ products.

Global warming is an existential threat to humankind, to our ecosystems and to the myriad wondrous species that inhabit our planet.  It is past time to debate or question the reality of global warming. We are bearing witness to this everyday as we are shocked and traumatized by catastrophe after catastrophe.

The defendants have known for decades that fossil fuel-driven global warming and sea level rise posed a catastrophic risk to human beings and to public and private property, especially for coastal cities like Oakland and San Francisco.

Their own scientific studies put them on notice.  Yet they shamelessly engaged in a campaign of deception and denial to protect their market for fossil fuels so they could make astronomical profits.

Just like BIG TOBACCO, BIG OIL knew the truth long ago and peddled misinformation to con their customers and the American public.

Our future is dire. Where we are standing right now likely will be under water by the end of this century, if not sooner.  

Even conservative projections show several feet of sea level rise in the Bay by 2100, which would put large parts of Oakland under sea water, including a huge part of West Oakland, Jack London Square, downtown, much of Interstate 880, significant parts of East Oakland and the entire Oakland airport, especially during storm surges.

This is not just about billions upon billions of dollars of property. More importantly, this is about the tens of thousands of people who live in these neighborhoods. The residents of these flatland areas are disproportionately African American, Hispanic and other people of color, and are disproportionately low-income or poor.   

The cost of building infrastructure and other measures to protect Oakland residents and our public and private property will be billions of dollars, as it will be for every major coastal city.  And the burden will be disproportionately borne by people who do not have the resources, the insurance and other economic means to privately invest in infrastructure or rebuild after disasters. 

These communities have already suffered the disproportionate impacts of systemic racism, redlining, racial covenants, predatory and racially discriminatory mortgage lending practices, and other legacies of slavery.

We know the industry’s own scientists have warned for decades that the impact of global warming would be “severe” and “catastrophic,” with “serious consequences” to the survival of the human race.

We know that the companies have engaged in what may be the largest and most expensive misinformation campaign in history to mislead the American public and the rest of the world about these dangers.

Clearly, it is right and just that the Defendants be liable for these costs.

Thankfully, California public nuisance law requires nothing less. When you know your product will create a public nuisance, in this case a product with potentially catastrophic effects, and when you continue to promote your product and market that product as safe, you are liable, period.

I want to thank HAGENS BERMAN SOBOL SHAPIRO LLP for assisting us with these lawsuits. I want to recognize attorneys MATT PAWA, STEVE BERMAN, EMERSON HILTON, SHANA SCARLETT, BENJAMIN KRASS and WESLEY KELMAN for their commitment to this cause.

Finally, I want to recognize the leaders of our City Attorney team: Maria Bee who heads our Affirmative Litigation, Innovation & Enforcement Division and Erin Bernstein who anchors the Division’s Community Lawyering & Civil Rights Unit (CLCR).

Alameda County Superior Court Case No. RG17875889

San Francisco County Superior Court Case No. CGC-17-561370

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