SANTA CRUZ — In an opening salvo in what could be a protracted legal battle, the Exxon Mobil Corporation has fired back at a lawsuit filed in December by the City and County of Santa Cruz.
The 60-page petition, filed Jan. 8 in a Texas court, is a response to a lawsuit against 29 petroleum companies, accusing them of being the driving forces behind climate change.
The lawsuit goes further than others of its kind by seeking to hold the companies responsible for the drought, wildfires, extreme weather and other effects that are believed to result from global warming.
It also seeks damages associated with sea level rise, and for changes to water supplies.
In the filing, the petrochemical corporation threatens its own lawsuit and seeks to interview 16 people under oath, including Santa Cruz County Administrative Officer Carlos Palacios, County Counsel Dana McRae, Santa Cruz City Attorney Anthony Condotti and City Manager Martin Bernal.
In the brief, Exxon claims that a “Collection of special interests and opportunistic politicians” are targeting the company “for failing to adopt their preferred policies on climate change.”
Exxon also accuses Santa Cruz of not disclosing the potential effects from climate change when the city tried to sell bonds to investors, even as it raised alarm over those effects through the lawsuit.
“The stark and irreconcilable conflict between what these municipal governments alleged in their respective complaints and what they disclosed to investors in their bond offerings indicates that the allegations in the complaints are not honestly held and were not made in good faith,” the brief read.
Santa Cruz City Attorney Tony Condotti said the city will “vigorously oppose” the petition.
Condotti said that Santa Cruz’s information on climate change is “well documented.” He pointed to the city’s 2011 climate change vulnerability assessment, and its 2017 update.
All, he said, are included in the city’s bond disclosures.
“The evidence linking these anticipated local impacts to the conduct of the defendants has no bearing on any bond offering documents issued previously,” Condotti said in a prepared statement. “What this really amounts to is an attempt to divert attention from the fact that Exxon has known for nearly 50 years that greenhouse gas pollution from their products is causing global warming, sea-level rise and changes in global climate patterns that will force communities like ours to spend vast sums to protect our residents and businesses from the consequences.”
“Filing a baseless petition in Texas District Court is an obvious attempt at forum shopping that we’ll vigorously oppose,” Condotti said.
To see the Santa Cruz lawsuit, visit www.tinyurl.com/y9nqmndj. To see Exxon’s response, visit www.tinyurl.com/ycnby9lq.