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Why we must Sue Big Oil Even if We Lose

Big Oil

By K. Valley

Why we must Sue Big Oil Even if We Lose

Steve Berman is a rockstar lawyer in the environmental world. He’s the guy you take seriously when you’re a corporation doing bad things.

This rockstar has notched wins that set corporations on edge.

  • $12 million judgment against Jack-in-the-Box for an E.coli outbreak that killed four children
  • $215 million from Enron for defrauding their investors & wiping out workers’ retirement accounts
  • $1.2 billion from Volkswagen for cheating on diesel emissions

Corporations Don’t Like Steve Berman

Why do corporations not like Steve Berman? He’s the lawyer who negotiated a $200 billion settlement from big tobacco when no one believed big tobacco could lose.

Including big tobacco.

From a corporate perspective, Berman is a scary guy. And he’s clearly passionate and committed to fighting for justice.

In 2017 Berman aimed his gaze at big oil – Chevron, ExxonMobil, BP, and more.

Big oil was not pleased.

Taking a page from tobacco’s playbook the smear campaign against Berman got underway.

They labeled him an anti-corporate lawyer – clearly the intended audience aren’t environmentalists. 

A zealot out to destroy the industries that oil companies believe America relies on to be leaders in the world.

Berman has a page on Energy in Depth big oil’s (mis)information website. The site educates you with a reimagining of the climate change story.

In this story, the oil producers are the good guys – driving innovation, developing new ways to fracture (frak) the natural gas the USA needs to stay productive and competitive.

Climate activists, like Berman, and presumably anyone who challenges big oil, are cast as the enemy. The destroyers of American dreams and the economy.

It’s frightening how convincing the website is, particularly if you are new to climate change issues. Big oil can’t be that bad. They want us to find solutions and not waste time on litigation.

Oil pollution spills under  microscope

Keep on Fracking

For those on the fence, it gives good reading. Makes you feel we should all be working together to solve the issues. And we should. But that’s not the goal of the oil producers.

A little further down their rabbit hole they they tell us we need to continue extracting carbon. Because that’s how we grow a strong economy and keep America great.

Besides, America is the leader in reducing greenhouse gasses. So, what’s all the fuss?

Climate change affects sea levels and salinity impacting the reproduction and migration of fish. 

EID doesn’t mention this.

It’s clear their goal is not to “work together to find solutions” but to let them continue business as usual – with zero consequence.


When Failure Is Good

Previous lawsuits against the oil companies have failed. The Bay area lawsuit brought by Steve Berman also failed

The failures are good. They’ve yielded results that move us forward. The suits themselves act like beacons to show what can be done. 

Steve Berman lost the case against big oil in Judge William Alsup’s courtroom.

And although big oil wasn’t held responsible for their actions in that room, the judge lobbed three take-aways that must have struck fear deep in their pocket books.

1. Climate change is real

2. Climate science is sound

3. Points one and two – had to be accepted by both sides.

The “failed” litigation means that big oil can no longer deny climate change is real (they deny it anyway on EID).

Oil producers know every time they’re in court more of their deniability is stripped. More of their secrets exposed. We know this terrifies them because they tell us it does.

They saw what happened when big tobacco was forced to hand over their papers. Goliath fell.

Those pages revealed big tobacco’s lies and secrets. They told us what they knew and when they knew it. Their own documents condemned them.

Steve Berman knows this too. He longs to put pressure on the oil companies by having cities join forces to sue them.


Why You Need to Sue

A conservative state like South Carolina starting litigation against the oil producers? That signals a seismic shift in thought and priorities.

This is why it’s important South Carolina lead the way by launching their fight against ExxonMobil et al. because they motivate other communities to take a stand. To reorder their thinking.

Charleston was the 21st community in the US to fight back, followed by New Jersey and Delaware.

Each community standing up, inspires another.  We need this momentum.  Need it to let those who march against climate change know we stand together. Need it for those who are currently afraid but are getting their sea legs.

We need it to empower ourselves so we know we can take control of our lives and the narrative.

The issues are big. They can feel overwhelming and insurmountable. But leaders have been stepping forward, leaders who know we are the only ones who can make change.

And if we lose a battle we will continue to push forward to create a healthier planet. Because what’s at stake are our lives, our children’s lives.

Big oil doesn’t give a damn if we suffer, they’ve proved that. Their internal documents are being leaked. They tell us they knew since at least the 1950’s we were in danger.

That our lives, our homes, our businesses could be destroyed with the change in climate. That cancers and illnesses could increase and they said nothing. Did nothing.

Studies tell us that oil & gas spills are causing irreparable injury to humans. I wanted to see what EID says about the industry’s record on this.

Surprisingly searching for “oil spills” on EID – no posts match my criteria.


Choose Your Hard

Our choice is simple. Sue or don’t sue.

We can live with the knowledge we took every action we could to protect our children and our world. Or we can do nothing and live with that knowledge.

Whatever choice we make we’ll be living with the environmental consequences. Because the climate change events we have now will continue either way. Big oil has made sure of that.

This is why we want to sue even if we lose. And why we can’t stop.

These particular fights are about the environment – yes. But there is a larger picture here that sometimes goes unnoticed and often unspoken.

Judge Alsup spoke it – he noted these are global problems that demand global solutions.

We must compel our governments to make these transnational corporations pay for their actions. Then legislate them out of business.


All of Us Have Benefited

Judge Alsup noted he couldn’t open the door to a cascade of lawsuits against big oil by ruling in favour of the Bay area, saying, “All of us have benefitted.”

That’s not true. 

Many have not benefited and have not benefited equally.

Some of us have had to pay steep costs we didn’t consent to. Some of us have suffered painfully before dying miserable deaths. Some of us have lost our countries and become “climate refugees.”

(An undefined term for people who’ve been forced to leave their homes due to ocean flooding, desertification, and more. These people have no formal protections.)

We are divided into groups and made to believe that each group is fighting for their own “privilege,” so we don’t fight together.

Charleston’s entry into the battle against big oil is vital because it shows minds changed, it broadcasts hope and courage to the next entrant. Charleston tells us we have the same fight.


What can you do?

Tell your government it’s time to sue oil and gas. It’s time to make them bear the costs. And keep telling them. 

Vote for people who you can trust to put your life and your children’s lives ahead of oil and gas.

Author Bio: Kay is a ghostwriter and narrator. She is a public speaker for corporations focusing on why Anti-Racism training and DEI doesn’t work. She hosts the new Podcast, Same Soup/Different Cracker examining systemic racism around the world.