Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Yesterday, Multnomah County filed suit against several of the largest fossil fuel and coal-producing corporations in our work to hold them accountable for damages from the 2021 Pacific Northwest Heat Dome, one of the deadliest and most destructive human-made weather disasters in American history, in which 69 Multnomah County residents lost their lives.
The County alleges in this lawsuit that the historical carbon pollution from the use of Defendants’ fossil fuel products was a substantial factor in causing and exacerbating the heat dome, which smothered the County’s residents for several days.
The suit, filed in Oregon Circuit Court in Multnomah County, names several of the biggest fossil fuel producers, including Exxon Mobil, Shell, Chevron, BP, ConocoPhillips and their trade associations. This case is being litigated on contingency by Worthington & Caron, PC, Simon Greenstone Panatier, PC and Thomas Coon Newton & Frost, all of whom are specialists in large scale catastrophic harm litigation and have won opioid and asbestos settlements.
Because this is a contingency case, the work will be done at no cost to Multnomah County. The County’s lawsuit seeks $50 million dollars in past compensatory damages, and $1.5 billion dollars in future compensatory damages. In addition, the County seeks an abatement fund, estimated at $50 billion, to study, plan, and upgrade the public health care services and infrastructure that will be reasonably necessary to weatherproof the County from future extreme heat events and to safeguard the public health.
At the core, this lawsuit is about fairness and accountability for these giant oil companies who
have record profits, who have known about the damage that their products do to our environment and who have been using pseudoscience, disinformation and outright lies for decades. They have prevented us from making the changes needed to protect our climate and protect our community.
Because we know climate disasters don’t – and won’t – impact everyone in the same way. Not everyone can afford to escape the heat or the smoke. If you’re poor, you live outside, you’re a person of color or you live in certain parts of this city, you are much more likely to be experiencing climate impacts first – and worse.
Multnomah County has long worked to face increased climate related challenges and to invest in mitigating these impacts for these parts of our community and that’s work that will continue. We’ve developed the Climate Action Plan and established the Office of Sustainability to advance our economy, improve public health, and promote social equity through environmental stewardship initiatives. We are a leader in reducing emissions and adapting to a destabilized climate, with a commitment to 100 percent clean electricity by 2035 and clean transportation and home heating by 2050.
It is also our responsibility to show residents how we are preparing for increased climate related concerns. Yesterday, this Board made a commitment I’m proud of, one to continue making sure we’re not only taking care of our most vulnerable with the programs they need, but we’re looking out for their best interests with our time and our advocacy.
View the Multnomah County climate accountability litigation here
Watch the press conference