Portland/ Politics & Govt
AI Assisted Icon
Published on June 12, 2024
Multnomah County's Climate Lawsuit Against Big Oil Remanded to Oregon State Court by JudgeSource: Google Street View

In a decisive turn of events, Multnomah County's legal battle against major oil companies is set to continue in Oregon's own courts. United States District Judge Adrienne Nelson has ruled that the county's climate accountability lawsuit, which seeks redress for damages allegedly wrought by the fossil fuel industry's contributions to climate change, belongs in State court. This move reinforces the County's stance that the State court is the proper venue for this dispute, one that has seen Multnomah County pitted against oil giants over claims of fraud, public nuisance, negligence, and trespass.

This lawsuit's odyssey began two years ago, on the stark anniversary of the 2021 Heat Dome event, which took the lives of over 116 Oregonians. Since then, the county alleges, the defendants have not only anticipated the adverse effects of their products on the climate but have also propagated misinformation regarding their impact. With fervor, Multnomah County pursues justice on behalf of its residents, looking to hold these corporate entities responsible for the deception that, they claim, has levied significant costs on their community. The defendants sought refuge in federal court, where, they presumed, their legal footing was sure – however, their tactics have not withstood the scrutiny of Judge Nelson, who has become the 12th federal judge to dismiss Big Oil's arguments for a federal hearing.

A statement obtained by Multnomah County reveals the anticipation and resolution in Jeffery Simon's voice, who represents Multnomah County. "We look forward to the time when a jury will decide this case, and deliver a resounding verdict. That day will come, we hope soon, and we will be ready for it, no matter how long it takes. Justice demands it," Simon asserts, expecting the oil companies to continue their strategy of protracting the legal process.

Reflecting the lawsuit's gravitas, Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson expressed the importance of the court's decision for the community, "Through this lawsuit, the County is proud to hold the largest fossil fuel companies accountable for their contributions to anthropogenic climate pollution." Moreover, this case flag points a broader struggle, with Oregonians, according to Roger Worthington, facing burgeoning climate-related costs that jeopardize health, welfare, property, and natural resources. "The land, ocean, and air are heating up, the forests burn every summer, the glaciers continue to melt, and the bill to abate and prevent these foreseeable disasters continues to skyrocket," Worthington conveyed in a poignant reminder of the stakes at play.

While the lawsuit now returns to Oregon Circuit Court, the defendants are expected to appeal the remand decision, an anticipated continuation of their delaying tactics. The groundswell of support and the mounting pressure on the judiciary underscore the urgency and the profound need for legal recourse as the planet teeters on the brink of irreversible climate change. The community watches with bated breath, as the County steels itself for a trial that will either become a watershed moment in climate litigation or yet another chapter in the ongoing saga of environmental justice.