• Business Business

Small-town lawsuit could make big corporations pay after decades of deceiving the public: 'They lied to all of us'

"The taxpayers should not have to foot the bill for these companies and their greed."

"The taxpayers should not have to foot the bill for these companies and their greed."

Photo Credit: iStock

Bucks County, Pennsylvania, is the latest locale to sue the oil industry, joining dozens of others.

The suburban region north of Philadelphia "wants oil producers to pay to mitigate the damage caused by climate change," the Associated Press reported Mar. 26, "asserting that major oil producers systematically deceived the public about their role in accelerating global warming."

The lawsuit accuses six oil companies — BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Phillips 66, ExxonMobil, and Shell — and the American Petroleum Institute, a trade association, of causing increasingly frequent and extreme weather events by burning fossil fuels and deceiving the public about it.

Seven people died in a July flash flood in Bucks County, which will spend $955 million through 2040 to mitigate the impact of the changing climate, according to the AP. It's the first county in Pennsylvania to file suit against Big Oil, but more than a quarter of Americans live in such communities, according to the Center for Climate Integrity.

The lawsuit compares the movement to the $206 billion settlement by the tobacco industry in 1998. Eight states, Washington, D.C., and municipalities in nine states plus the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico have sued major oil and gas companies for deceiving the public about their role in the changing climate, per the AP, which cited the CCI.

"These companies have known since at least the 1950s that their ways of doing business were having calamitous effects on our planet, and rather than change what they were doing or raise the alarm, they lied to all of us," Bucks County commissioner Gene DiGirolamo said in a statement. "The taxpayers should not have to foot the bill for these companies and their greed."

Much like the Big Tobacco agreement did, a judgment against Big Oil would change the world.

The deception started at least as early as 1954, the Guardian reported in January. It continues to this day as Big Oil and others follow the playbook.

These efforts are known as greenwashing — obscuring the true harms of a product in favor of falsehoods that tout its environmental positives.

"By misleading the public to believe that a company or other entity is doing more to protect the environment than it is, greenwashing promotes false solutions to the climate crisis that distract from and delay concrete and credible action," according to the United Nations.

Until Big Oil is held accountable, there are steps individuals can take to mitigate their impact on the planet: Rely on public transit or opt for an electric vehicle instead of a gasoline-powered one, eat less meat, and use clean energy such as solar and wind to power your home (which can also save you money).

As this and the other lawsuits by government officials demonstrate, perhaps the most important thing you can do is vote for candidates who support real green solutions to the climate crisis.

Join our free newsletter for cool news and actionable info that makes it easy to help yourself while helping the planet.

Cool Divider