PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Multnomah County is blaming some of the largest oil companies in the world for the 2021 heat dome that killed dozens of people. On Thursday, it filed a lawsuit against the companies, saying it plans to hold them accountable for the damages.
The lawsuit names Exxon Mobil, Shell, Chevron, BP, ConocoPhillips, Motiva, Occidental Petroleum, Anadarko Petroleum, Space Age Fuel, Valero Energy, Total Specialties USA, Marathon Petroleum, Peabody Energy, Koch Industries, American Petroleum Institute, Western States Petroleum Association, and McKinsey & Company.
The county says the pollution caused by these companies’ fossil fuel products contributed significantly to causing and exacerbating the heat dome.
Multnomah County and other parts of Oregon were trapped under hot air from June 24-29. For two days, temperatures were above 90 degrees and for three days, they topped 100. Portland hit a high of 116 degrees during the heat event.
“This lawsuit is about accountability and fairness, and I believe the people of Multnomah County deserve both. These businesses knew their products were unsafe and harmful, and they lied about it,” said Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson. “They have profited massively from their lies and left the rest of us to suffer the consequences and pay for the damages. We say enough is enough.”
Multnomah County said the heat dome resulted in the deaths of 69 people. They also blame the heat for property damage and for the increased use of taxpayers’ money and county resources.
According to the county, the large oil companies they’re suing are creating pollution that’s causing global temperatures to rise, resulting in droughts and heat events like the one Oregon experienced in June 2021.
“There are no new laws or novel theories being asserted here. We contend that the Defendants broke long-standing ones, and we will prove it to a jury,” said Jeffrey Simon, a partner at Simon Greenstone, one of the law firms representing the county.
“We are confident that, once we show what the fossil fuel companies knew about global warming and when, and what they did to deny, delay and deceive the public, the jury will not let the fossil fuel companies get away with their reckless misconduct,” another representing attorney Roger Worthington from Worthington & Caron, PC, said.
The county is seeking $50 million in damages and $1.5 billion in future damages. The county also seeks an estimated $50 billion for an abatement fund to study, plan and upgrade public health services and infrastructure to help “weatherproof” the county during future extreme heat events.
“These oil companies knew about the impacts they were having on our environment, on our climate,” Vega Pederson said.
KOIN 6 News contacted Exxon Mobil, Shell, Chevron and BP requesting statements in response to the lawsuit.
An Exxon Mobil spokesperson replied and said the company has not had a chance to review the lawsuit yet but could provide the following statement:
“Suits like these continue to waste time, resources and do nothing to address climate change. This action has no impact on our intention to invest billions of dollars to leading the way in a thoughtful energy transition that takes the world to net zero carbon emissions.”
Theodore J. Boutrous, Jr. of Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher, counsel for Chevron Corporation, sent the following statement:
“Addressing the challenge of global climate change requires a coordinated policy response. These lawsuits are counterproductive distractions from advancing international policy solutions. The federal Constitution bars these novel, baseless claims that target one industry and group of companies engaged in lawful activity that provides tremendous benefits to society. ”