ELIZABETH, N.J. - Union County leaders this week joined a growing number of elected officials, groups, and individuals across New Jersey calling on Governor Phil Murphy and Attorney General Gurbir Grewal to pursue legal action against fossil fuel companies to make them, rather than taxpayers, pay for the cost of damages caused by climate change.

 

The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders voted unanimously on July 23 to support a bipartisan resolution before the New Jersey Senate that urges state leaders to “take all appropriate legal action” against “the companies who knew their actions were contributing to climate change and its dangerous impacts, but continued to product, promote, market, and sell fossil fuels.” Atlantic County Freeholders passed a similar resolution in support of the measure earlier this month.

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Senate Resolution 57 cites the oil and gas industry’s decades-long knowledge that their products posed a “catastrophic” threat to the climate. It outlines many of the costly damages that climate change is now causing to New Jersey’s residents, property, and infrastructure, through more intense superstorms, flooding, coastal erosion, heatwaves, and more.

"Union County Freeholders strongly support the passage of SR57 to hold fossil fuel companies accountable for the damage they've done," said Freeholder Vice Chair Angel Estrada. "It's only fair that those responsible for pollution pay to clean it up. Our residents deserve to live in a clean and healthy environment."

Across the country, more than a dozen city and county governments in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maryland, New York, and Washington, along with the states of Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Rhode Island, and the District of Columbia, have gone to court in recent years to recover billions of dollars in damages caused by the oil and gas industry’s deception about climate change.

Last year, a study from the Center for Climate Integrity estimated that New Jersey will have to spend $25 billion on seawalls over the next 20 years to protect homes, infrastructure, and businesses from sea level rise.

New Jersey’s SR57 was approved by a Senate committee on July 20 following supportive testimony from multiple elected officials and environmental leaders. The resolution, which now goes to the full state Senate for consideration, is sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Lorretta Weinberg (D) and Senator Joseph P. Cryan (D) and co-sponsored by Senator Christopher “Kip” Bateman (R).

Earlier this year, the borough councils of Sea Bright and Bradley Beach passed their own resolutions calling on the state to hold fossil fuel companies accountable for climate change costs.