City of Oakland, Calif., Joins Global Warming Lawsuit in Unanimous City Council Vote

In a unanimous vote by the city council in closed session on Dec. 17, the city of Oakland, Calif., announced it had approved a motion to join a lawsuit brought by Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and the city of Boulder, Colo., on behalf of their members and citizens against two US government agencies – the Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im) and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC). Charged with illegally funding fossil fuel projects, Ex-Im and OPIC are taxpayer-funded agencies that provide financing and loans to US corporations for overseas projects commercial banks deem too risky.

"The threat of global warming can no longer be ignored," said Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown. "I commend the Oakland City Council for taking this step to protect the Bay Area from the detrimental impacts of climate change."

The unprecedented lawsuit alleges that OPIC and Ex-Im illegally provided over $32 billion in financing and insurance for oil fields, pipelines and coal-fired power plants over the past 10 years without assessing their contribution to global warming, or their impact on the US environment as required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Key provisions of NEPA require all federal agencies to conduct an environmental assessment of programs and project-specific decisions having a significant effect on the human environment. According to the complaint, however, OPIC and Ex-Im have refused to review the fossil fuel projects they are involved in for global warming impacts as required under NEPA.

The city of Oakland is the second major US city to join this landmark lawsuit. Boulder's city council voted to join the suit in August, concerned that climate change could diminish their drinking water supplies and bring a host of other negative impacts.

"The Bush administration's stance on climate change fails America's cities. Oakland and Boulder are taking a bold stand to defend themselves and hold our government accountable," said Friends of the Earth President Brent Blackwelder.

According to the Global Warming Project, the city of Oakland and the Bay Area could face increased risk of salt-water contamination in groundwater aquifers as a result of sea levels rising. Storm runoff and high tides could overwhelm sewerage systems. Oakland Airport, built on a former wetland at about 10 feet above sea level would be susceptible to flooding from extreme tides coupled with flood conditions and storm surges. Increasing temperatures will aggravate respiratory illnesses, such as asthma, reduce lung function and induce respiratory inflammation.

"We congratulate the cities of Oakland and Boulder for their leadership in holding the Bush administration accountable for failing to take action on global warming," said Gary Cook, coordinator of Greenpeace's Global Warming Campaign.

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