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Fossil fuel companies should help pay for climate change-related disasters, Colorado lawsuit claims

As the cost of climate change rises, someone has to pay for it.

The city of Boulder, Colorado, along with Boulder and San Miguel Counties, would like the companies responsible to pick up the tab. The regions filed a lawsuit Tuesday against two major fossil fuel companies, The New York Times reports.

The lawsuit places some blame for climate change on the shoulders of Exxon Mobil and Suncor Energy, arguing that the companies' role in exacerbating climate change should make them partly financially responsible for climate-related disasters. Local governments have paid for destruction caused by droughts and wildfires, which can cripple tourism and agriculture, the suit claims.

"Our communities and our taxpayers should not shoulder the cost of climate change adaptation alone," said Boulder Mayor Suzanne Jones, the Times reports. "These oil companies need to pay their fair share."

Boulder is the first non-coastal city to file such a lawsuit. Cities and counties in California and New York have filed similar lawsuits, ThinkProgress reports, and all have used the argument that parties responsible for a public "nuisance" should be held responsible. On the coasts, plaintiffs argued that fossil fuel companies were contributing to rising sea levels. The lawsuit in Colorado expands the accusations against oil companies, arguing that issues from melting snow pack to changes in precipitation are damages resulting from corporate actions.

The companies have fought back against this kind of litigation, with Exxon claiming that opponents are part of a "conspiracy" trying to oppress its "First Amendment right to participate in the national dialogue about climate change." Read more at The New York Times.