David vs. Goliath: Small town California mayor engaged in legal battle against massive oil industry
Serge Dedina is the mayor of Imperial Beach, a modest working-class community on the California coast. He is a surfer, environmentalist and surfer. According to the fossil fuel sector, it is also at center of a plot to extort hundreds of millions of dollars of big oil.
ExxonMobil and its allies accused Dedina of conspiring with other state politicians to extort money from the fossil fuel industry across California. His phone and computer were also inspected by lawyers to prove he had planned with authorities in Santa Cruz, a town about 500 miles north of Imperial Beach.
The oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico owned by Exxon is the tallest man-made structure turned into a man-made reef.
The point is, Dedina had never heard of a conspiracy in Santa Cruz. Only a few people had done it.
“On my phone, the only thing from Santa Cruz was pictures of my kids surfing there,” Dedina explained. “I love that a lawyer in a fancy suit must have been watching tapes of my kids surfing as they sat in a horrific office trying to uncover evidence that we were in a conspiracy with Santa Cruz.”
The laughter stopped at that point.
Lawyers could not find any evidence to support their claim. But that didn’t stop the company from using its legal force to try to intimidate Dedina, the mayor of one of the small towns in the region.
After Imperial Beach launched a lawsuit demanding that ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP and more than 30 other fossil fuel companies cover the huge expenses of defending the city against rising waters caused by the climate crisis, the mayor became a target.
In Imperial Beach’s case, oil companies are accused of defrauding the public by withholding data that shows burning fossil fuels is harmful to the environment. For decades, the company has misled the science of climate change, deliberately delaying action to reduce carbon emissions.
Dozens of lawsuits
The city’s action is one of the first in a wave of lawsuits by two dozen cities and states across the United States that could cost the fossil fuel industry billions of dollars in compensation for environmental destruction and deception.
Dedina says her majority and majority hamlet of 27,000 cannot begin to fund the tens of millions of dollars it will take to keep the seas away on all three sides of her cash-strapped town. In addition, Imperial Beach has been converted into an island following recent storms.
According to one estimate, rising sea levels would soon drown parts of the city, regularly flood its two schools, and submerge the city’s drainage system unless costly mitigation measures are taken.
Imperial Beach Budget
(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
The Imperial Beach has a $ 20 million annual budget. Exxon CEO Darren Woods was paid over $ 15 million Last year.
“In this town, we don’t have a pot to piss in.” “Why don’t we go after the energy companies? ” he said. “The case is a practical method of asking those who caused the sea level rise to pay for the consequences it is having on our city,” said the plaintiff.
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