Bucks County Commissioner Withdraws Support for Climate Change Lawsuit

On Monday, March 25, the three Bucks County commissioners took unprecedented legal action by filing a lawsuit against BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, Philips 66, Shell, and the American Petroleum Institute (API), the trade association for oil and natural gas firms and related suppliers.

The lawsuit made Bucks County the first county government in Pennsylvania to challenge major oil companies in court, following a series of similar legal actions by a handful of other local governments nationally alleging environmental harm from climate change.

But a little more than a week later, Bucks County Commissioner Gene DiGirolamo is backing out, saying: “I have considered this for the past seven or eight days. … And at this point, I would like to withdraw my support for the lawsuit,” according to the Delaware Valley Journal.

As PEIA responded initially when Bucks County initiated litigation, these local lawsuits do nothing to address our real energy challenges. In fact, lawsuits like this actually undercut Pennsylvania’s role in addressing climate change. Electric sector-related emissions have plummeted in recent years as more natural gas has come online to meet our growing power demands. That has led to cleaner air across our commonwealth.

The fact is that the United States is reducing greenhouse gas emissions faster than any other country in the world — an achievement tied to our emergence as the world’s top natural gas producer. Pennsylvania is second only to Texas in terms of production, and the energy sector creates jobs and fosters economic growth while benefiting every resident of this commonwealth — including those who live in Bucks County — with lower energy costs.

DiGirolamo’s decision comes as the Center for Climate Integrity, a nonprofit that works to get governments to sue fossil-fuel energy producers, plans to present to some members of Allegheny County Council, the first step in what could be the filing of a suit similar to that pushed by Bucks County.

The timing of these lawsuits has little to do with environmental concerns and everything to do with concerns over the coming election, where local elected leaders’ actions are meant to energize a political base rather than coalesce around real solutions.