The two Los Angeles City Council members who represent Westside neighborhoods are pushing their council colleagues to pursue legal action against oil and gas companies for the deleterious effects of climate change.

“Taxpayers should not be footing the bill for infrastructure repairs that likely wouldn’t have been necessary had it not been for the willful neglect of the fossil fuel industry,” reads a Jan. 12 motion by Councilmen Mike Bonin and Paul Koretz. “By knowing that their business practice was contributing to climate change and doing nothing to stop their destructive ways, the oil and gas industry should be held liable for the current and future damage climate change is causing our city.”

Last week New York City filed suit against BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell, claiming these five companies have produced 11% of all global warming gases despite the results of their own climate-change studies dating back to the 1980s.

The motion by Bonin and Koretz, which heads to the council’s Budget and Finance Committee before being considered by the 15-member board, would direct the city attorney to draft an amicus brief for New York and consider filing a related lawsuit. San Francisco, Oakland and several other California communities filed similar suits last year.

“Representing a coastal district, I am acutely aware of climate change and how it has affected the environment. We’re dealing with the impacts of fossil fuels and its consequences such as sea level rise, wildfires, mudslides and unprecedented heat waves,” Bonin told The Argonaut. “As early as 1987, the oil industry knew what their impacts were on the climate and tried to keep it quiet. Since [New York City] Mayor Bill de Blasio decided to take this very important step, it seemed like a particularly opportune time to
do the same thing.”

— Gary Walker

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