Kathy Jennings

Attorney General Kathy Jennings is seen in this file photo

Delaware has joined the list of state and local governments that have sued the petroleum industry in an attempt to hold oil producers accountable for costs related to climate change.

The attorney general's office joined forces with a California law firm that has sued the industry on behalf of other state and local governments in filing a Superior Court complaint Thursday.

“Delawareans are already paying for the malfeasance of the world’s biggest fossil fuel companies,” Attorney General Kathy Jennings said in a prepared statement. “Exxon, Chevron, and other mega-corporations knew exactly what kind of sacrifices the world would make to support their profits, and they deceived the public for decades. Now we are staring down a crisis at our shores, and taxpayers are once again footing the bill for damage to our roads, our beaches, our environment, and our economy. We are seeking accountability from some of the world’s most powerful businesses to pay for the mess they’ve made.”

The 222-page complaint alleges that the petroleum industry misled the public for decades about the role its products play in causing climate change. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for the costs of responding to sea level rise and other problems in Delaware that have been blamed on global warming.

"Defendants individually and collectively played leadership roles in denialist campaigns to misinform and confuse consumers and the public and obscure the role of defendants' products in causing global warming and its associated impacts," the lawsuit alleges. "But for such campaigns, climate crisis impacts in Delaware would have been substantially mitigated or eliminated altogether."

"But for defendants' conduct, the state would have suffered no or far less serious injuries and harms than it has endured, and foreseeably will endure, due to the climate crisis and its physical, environmental, social, and economic consequences," the complaint adds.

Defendants in the lawsuit include Exxon Mobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, BP, Royal Dutch Shell and the American Petroleum Institute.

Asked why the state did not include the Delaware City oil refinery as a defendant, Attorney General Kathy Jennings said officials decided to go after "the big dogs" who are substantially responsible for climate change.

Casey Norton, a spokesman for Exxon Mobil, said the claims in the lawsuit are "baseless and without merit."

"Legal proceedings like this waste millions of dollars of taxpayer money and do nothing to advance meaningful actions" toward reducing risks of climate change, Norton said in an email.

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