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Colorado lawsuit over climate change sees movement after years of delays

Plaintiffs allege the two energy companies contributed substantially to the climate crisis and should have to help pay for its costs.

BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. — After years of delays, there's finally some movement in a lawsuit against energy companies Suncor and Exxon Mobil.

On Thursday, the Office of the Solicitor General recommended the lawsuit stay local in a state court, instead of being heard by the Supreme Court.

Back in 2018, Boulder and San Miguel counties, as well as the City of Boulder, sued the two companies. 

Local governments say the impacts of climate change cost a lot and communities need help dealing with it. More frequent wildfires, extreme heat, droughts and floods are some of the issues the plaintiffs in this case claim are causing harm. 

"Just in Louisville alone, in east county, we saw over $2 billion of damage in the Marshall Fire," said Ashley Stolzmann, Boulder County commissioner and former Louisville mayor.

More than a year later, and families are still rebuilding after the Marshall Fire. Stolzmann said it's a real consequence of climate change. 

"The oil companies have profited off of this for so long," said Stolzmann. "We need help addressing these issues."

She said because of climate change, people have to adapt. 

"We need to put in air conditioning in places where people could just leave the windows open," she said.

Marco Simons is general counsel for the plaintiffs in this lawsuit.

He said climate change also impacts precipitation patterns that have led to floods and droughts. Extreme heat has caused both death and changes to the freeze-thaw cycle, which can damage infrastructure like roads. 

"We now know there is no wildfire season in Colorado. We've seen the biggest wildfires in Colorado's history just in the last several years," he said. "The oil companies had engaged in a pattern of deception and an unchecked pattern of promotion, production, and sales of fossil fuels which had contributed substantially to the climate crisis."

He said they're suing Suncor and ExxonMobil because they believe those companies should share in the responsibility of paying for the harms caused by climate change. 

"We're not saying that the oil companies bear 100% of the responsibility for climate change, or for these costs, but we're also not saying that it's 0%," said Simons. 

Stolzmann said they need help. She said she talks with someone each day who has lost their home in the Marshall Fire, including kids. 

"It's really the hardest for me to see that we have let down the next generation by letting it get to where it is now," she said. "We have to take action to change that."

Stolzmann said it's about addressing issues like air pollution, drought, and wildfires happening in winter so children have a shot at a better tomorrow. 

"It's clear that we're suffering here on the ground and it's too much for anyone to deal with alone," she said. 

Exxon Mobil spokesperson Todd Spitler sent a statement that said:

Lawsuits like this one do nothing but waste time and resources and, more importantly, don’t advance efforts to address climate change.

While we’ll fight this, we’ll also continue devoting billions of dollars to meet today’s energy needs while leading the way in a thoughtful energy transition towards net zero carbon.

9NEWS has not yet received a reply from Suncor. 


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