A week after a brutal snowstorm froze New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio delivered a one-two punch Wednesday in the name of climate change, announcing he will seek billions in damages from five major oil-and-gas companies while moving to divest from fossil fuels.
“It’s time for them to start paying for the damage they have done,” Mr. de Blasio said at a press conference at the Manhattan Youth Center. “It’s time for Big Oil to take responsibility for the devastation they have wrought.”
The two-front attack was promptly pilloried by industry groups as a cynical political stunt, even as it put New York Cityat the forefront of the environmental movement’s campaign to recruit local governments as allies in the climate change fight.
Flanked by municipal leaders and top climate activists, the Democratic mayor said his goal is to divest the $189 billion public-pension funds from fossil fuels by 2022, which he said would make New York the first major U.S. city to do so.
Mr. de Blasio also announced that the city has filed a lawsuit against five top energy producers, blaming the companies for greenhouse-gas emissions that he said have produced disasters such as Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
“I remember those days after Sandy in the Lower East Side. I remember how desperate it was. I remember how much fear and confusion there was,” said Mr. de Blasio. “And this was a tragedy that was wrought by the actions of the fossil-fuel companies. Let’s be clear: That’s where it came from.”
The lawsuit seeks unspecified billions from five companies — BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell — to fund a proposed $20 billion infrastructure project that would “build resilience against rising seas, more powerful storms, and hotter temperatures.”
“The City of New York is taking on these five giants because they are the central actors, they are the first ones responsible for this crisis, and they should not get away with it anymore,” said Mr. de Blasio.
Pushing back were oil-and-gas and industry representatives, who accused the mayor of doing more to curry favor with environmentalists than address human-caused global warming.