Revenge of the Eroding Village of Kivalina

The shrinking village of Kivalina, Alaska is suing 9 oil companies, 14 power companies, and one coal company for damage that has been caused by global warming to their island. This suit was filed Tuesday, Feb 26, in San Fransisco’s U.S. District Court on behalf of the city of Kivalina and it’s federally recognized tribe, Alaska Native village of Kivalina. The suit is claiming that the large amounts of greenhouse gases these companies have emitted has contributed to global warming and that is now threatening their communities existence.

The traditional Inupiat Eskimo village of 391 is located on an 8-mile barrier reef about 625 miles northwest of Anchorage. The community has been traditionaly protected by sea ice. While their economy is based partly on the fishing of salmon and hunting of seal, walrus, and whale. Since the sea ice is now forming later and then melting earlier becuase of higher tempatures due to global warming. This leaves the village unprotected from fall and winter storm surges and waves that pound costal communities.

“We are seeing accelerated erosion because of the loss of sea ice,” in a statement from City Administrator Janet Mitchell. “We normally have ice starting in October, but now we have open water even into December so our island is not protected from the storms.” The damage that global warming has caused has been documented in official government reports by both the General Accounting Office and the Army Corps of Engineers.

This lawsuit invokes the federal common law of public nusiance so that every entity that contributes to pollution that is now harming Kivialina can be liable. Part of the lawsuit is also cliaming a conspiracy among some of the defendents by publicly misleading the public on the causes and consquences of global warming.

Since the island is shrinking relocation is the only option left to the people of this village. The estimated costs to do that is at $400 million if not more.

The oil companies named are : Exxon Mobil, BP, PLC, BP America Inc., BP Products North America, Inc., Chevron Corp., Chevron U.S.A., INC., ConocoPhilips Co., Royal Dutch Shell PLC, and Shell Oil Co.

The energy and power companies named are: AES Corp., American Electric Power Co. Inc., American Elctric Power Service Corp.,DTER Energy Co., Duke Energy Corp., Dynegy Holdings, Inc., Edison International, MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co., Mirant Corp., NRG Energy, Pinnacle West Capital Corp., Reliant Energy Inc., the Southern Co., and Xcel Energy Inc.

The single major coal producer named was Peabody Energy Co.

This will prove to be an interesting case to follow.

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