The people of New York might soon have the power to slam lawsuits against big oil companies and other producers of fossil fuels due to a new climate change bill put forth by one Democrat from Brooklyn, a bill which attempts to emulate a recent law from Texas targeting abortion providers.
The bill was introduced this past week by State Sen. Zellnor Myrie (D-Brooklyn) which would go after fossil fuel companies that sport annual revenues surpassing $1 billion demonstrating any sort of “negligence” while “storing, transporting, refining, importing, exporting, producing, manufacturing” products such as natural gas and petroleum.
“The effects of climate change in New York — especially in communities like mine — are undeniable,” the local media heard from Myrie. “We are quickly running out of time to reverse this climate emergency, and my legislation gives ordinary New Yorkers a chance to hold bad actors in the fossil fuel industry accountable for decades of negligence and denial.”
As highlighted in the legislation, as explained by the New York Post, U.S.-based companies such as Chevron, ExxonMobile, and over 90 foreign and domestic groups allegedly produce 63% of carbon dioxide and methane emissions into the atmosphere.
“The costs of inaction are so high — more homes destroyed by worsening floods, more lives ruined by chronic asthma and extreme heat that threatens us all. It’s time for regular New Yorkers to say enough is enough,” Myrie expressed to the Post.
Myrie proposed this bill in the wake of another 2021 law from Texas, which local media claimed allows any person to kick off and slam civil claims for damages against abortion providers or anything who assists with a woman obtaining an abortion at any point past the 6th week of the mother’s pregnancy.
He stated that the idea could “save our planet and protect our lives.”
Despite the claims, the vice president of the Business Council of New York, Ken Pokalsky, stated to the Post that the new bill would only help lawyers as it was “designed for class action suits.”
Pokalsky stated that it would unfairly go after companies despite a state climate law that requires the state to cut 85% of its total greenhouse gas emissions by as soon as 2050 while New York moves to make use of more renewable energy sources like wind and solar.
“We’re not going to eliminate the use [of fossil fuel] anytime in the immediate future. We’re dependent on it — but you’re gonna say the person who provides this essential product is going to be financially liable for it?” stated Pokalsky. “What’s the logic of that?”
One national law firm, Tully Rinckey, used Ryan McCall to speak to the New York Post that the law could force the court system into a highly vulnerable position as personal problems are sparked by pollution with alleged negligence of the fossil fuel companies.
“It’s going to be similar, in my opinion, to any other personal injury action, where we’re gonna need to get medical experts that are going to be able to say, as a result of this specific emission, that this type of injury happened to you,” stated McCall. “You would begin to see a flood of litigation when it comes to these types of environmental cases like we haven’t seen before.”
McCall stated that the bill could be forced to deal with heavy challenges from many companies that stand against state legislators dictating what they do within their company despite “plausible ways to make polluters pay for demonstrable damage caused by their use of fossil fuels.”
“I definitely think you’re going to see federal challenges come into this bill. I think that’s going to be highly likely, but I do definitely think this bill has a lot of merit when it comes to allowing private actors to bring litigation,” he expressed.
Myrie, on the other hand, expressed to local media outlets that the fossil fuel industry “will be held accountable for the damage” caused to the environment of New York.
If legislators manage to put through this new law, the bill will make it to the desk of Governor Kathy Hochul, who had vocalized her support of the state’s plan to move for a green economy.