Two California counties and a city yesterday sued 37 oil, natural gas and coal companies and trade groups, saying their actions intensified climate change and exacerbated costly sea-level rise.

San Mateo County and Marin County in the San Francisco Bay Area and Imperial Beach in San Diego County in separate court filings sued companies that included Chevron Corp., Exxon Mobil Corp., BP PLC, Royal Dutch Shell PLC, Citgo Petroleum Corp., ConocoPhillips Co. and Arch Coal Inc. and trade groups that included the American Petroleum Institute and California-based Western States Petroleum Association.

“Defendants have known for nearly 50 years that greenhouse gas pollution from their fossil fuel products has a significant impact on the Earth's climate and sea levels,” the lawsuits said. “With that knowledge, Defendants took steps to protect their own assets from these threats through immense internal investment in research, infrastructure improvements, and plans to exploit new opportunities in a warming world.”

Rather than working to reduce fossil fuel use and lower emissions, the claims added, “Defendants concealed the dangers, sought to undermine public support for greenhouse gas regulation, and engaged in massive campaigns to promote the ever-increasing use of their products at ever greater volumes.”

WSPA In-House General Counsel Oyango Snell in a statement said, “We are aware of the lawsuit and monitoring the situation closely; but as a matter of policy, we don't comment on active litigation.” Exxon Mobil and Chevron also declined to comment. Some of the other oil companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The locales said that they are facing “mounting costs” to respond to rising sea levels, including roadways frequently flooded by storms and by king tides — an especially high tide around the full moon in fall months.

San Mateo County has more at risk from sea-level rise, in terms of parcel value and number of people, than any other county in the state, a 2009 Pacific Institute report said.

In Marin County, more than 12,000 homes, businesses and institutions could face damage from tides and surge flooding by the end of the century, with vulnerable properties assessed at nearly $16 billion, that county said.

Sea-level rise is projected in an Imperial Beach analysis to flood wastewater and stormwater infrastructure, roads, private property and two elementary schools. Imperial Beach has the highest poverty rate in San Diego County.

“The environmental harm these companies knowingly caused to our precious shorelines, and the entire world, and their deliberate efforts to conceal those frightening truths, jeopardizes the public's health and places the financial burden of those consequences on the taxpayers,” San Mateo County Board of Supervisors President Don Horsley said in a statement.

“The County of San Mateo and our partners in Marin County and Imperial Beach are standing up for our residents and businesses to hold these companies accountable for their emissions and lay blame where it truly belongs,” he added. “The damage they've caused and continue to cause is unacceptable. The fact that they'd prioritize their bottom line over the health and security of the public — including children — in the face of hard science is unconscionable.”

Marin County filed in Marin County Superior Court, San Mateo in San Mateo County Superior Court, and Imperial Beach in Superior Court in Contra Costa County.

Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from E&E News. E&E provides daily coverage of essential energy and environmental news at