One New Jersey city’s persistent struggle with flooding has become a crisis, and the mayor is taking legal action to see if it will help the problem get addressed.
Rising sea levels and more frequent, heavy rains are taking enough of a toll on the city of Hoboken that Mayor Ravi Bhalla announced a half billion dollar lawsuit against what he calls big oil – major oil companies and their association.
"The lawsuit seeks to hold these big oil companies accountable, and help pay for current and future costs," Bhalla said at a press conference.
Hoboken has already taken significant steps to fight climate change. At one park in the city across the Hudson River from Manhattan, a huge storage tank sits underneath and holds nearly half a million gallons of storm water for later release. A few blocks away, another park under construction is set to have an even larger storm water storage capacity underground.
Bhalla believes much of this crisis can be laid at the feet of large oil companies.
"Their own scientists literally predicted, decades ago, the disastrous impacts of climate change of the present day," Bhalla said.
If Hoboken wins the case, Bhalla says much of the money will be spent on the city’s housing authority, where some of its poorest residents live. He says environmental and racial justice is a pressing issue impacting those most vulnerable.
While not directly answering a question about decades of internal research predicting today’s climate crisis, the American Petroleum Institute did respond with a statement saying that over the past two decades, "the industry has achieved its goal of providing affordable, reliable American energy to U.S. consumers while substantially reducing emissions and our environmental footprint."
But in this city that has been hit hard with flood after flood, especially in recent years, the mayor said he’s had enough.
"Big oil companies are the latest example of reckless corporate greed, prioritizing profits over people ... over the very future of our planet Earth itself," the mayor said.
Regardless of whether the lawsuit succeeds or not, Bhalla said Hoboken will have to keep investing in flood protection – otherwise much of the square-mile city will be underwater in just a few decades.