Maui Council Unanimously Backs Mayor’s Request to Sue Big Oil

February 21, 2020, 5:25 PM HST · Updated February 24, 7:26 AM
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Impacts of sea level rise and erosion. PC: Sea Level Rise Vulnerability and Adaption Report.

The Maui County Council today unanimously approved Mayor Victorino’s request to authorize outside counsel in his quest to sue the fossil fuel industry for what he called “mounting impacts of climate change and rising sea levels.”

Maui County joins dozens of other counties, municipalities, and states across the United States that have filed similar climate liability lawsuits.

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“Maui Nui is already seeing the impacts of the climate crisis,” said Rob Weltman, Sierra Club Maui Group Chair. “Last year we experienced a devastating series of large-scale wildfires that spread rapidly across Maui island, intensified flooding events and extreme coastal erosion. These impacts are not just an inconvenience, they are threatening our livelihoods, homes and lives. The fossil fuel industry has used its power to stall vital climate policies on every level and misinform the public. We are grateful the Maui County Council is taking the climate crisis seriously and is ready to hold the fossil fuel industry responsible” said Weltman.

According to the Sierra Club, this climate litigation aims to offset the substantial costs that Maui’s communities face from climate change impacts. “From only 3.2 feet of sea level rise, West Maui faces $1.9 billion in damages, $980.8 million in Kīhei-Mākena, $289 million in Wailuku-Kahului, $284 million on Molokaʻi, $81 million in Pāʻia-Haʻikū, $11 million in Hāna and $10 million on Lānaʻi,” according to a press release issued by the organization this afternoon.

Today’s vote approved the employment of Sher Edling LLP as special counsel to represent Maui County. This counsel will work on a contingency basis and will only be paid if they win with no upfront costs to the County or taxpayers.

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