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Bay Area cities sue Big Oil over climate change

San Francisco, Oakland file separate suits seeking funds for infrastructure to deal with rising sea levels

California cities San Francisco and Oakland filed separate lawsuits against five oil companies on Wednesday seeking billions of dollars to protect against rising sea levels they blamed on climate change, according to public documents.

The lawsuits, filed in state courts in San Francisco and Alameda Counties, alleged Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, BP and Shell, created a public nuisance and asked for funds to finance infrastructure to deal with rising sea levels.

According to a press release by San Francisco city officials, the lawsuits mirror 1980s-era lawsuits against tobacco companies. They allege the oil giants "knowingly and recklessly created an ongoing public nuisance that is causing harm now and in the future risks catastrophic harm to human life and property".

A spokeswoman for Chevron, which is based in the San Francisco Bay Area, said the company "welcomes serious attempts to address the issue of climate change, but these suits do not do that".

"Should this litigation proceed, it will only serve special interests at the expense of broader policy, regulatory, and economic priorities," the spokeswoman said.

Representatives for ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Shell and BP had no immediate comment when contacted by Reuters.

The lawsuits are the latest in a growing body of legal action against oil companies over climate change. Prosecutors for New York and Massachusetts are investigating Exxon, for example, over the possibility it misled investors in public statements on the risks of climate change.

The cases are People of the State of California V. BP et al., San Francisco Superior Court Case No. CGC 17-561370, and People of the State of California V. BP et al., Alameda County Superior Court Case No. RG17875889.