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Bucks County Files Lawsuit Against Fossil Fuel Giants For Climate Crisis Deception

Bucks County has initiated a lawsuit against several major fossil fuel companies.

Solicitor Amy Fitzpatrick speaking. The commissioners stand on either side of her.
Credit: Tom Sofield/

The Bucks County Commissioners, on behalf of the county government, filed a detailed lawsuit against a number of major fossil fuel companies, claiming they deceived the public about their “chief product’s role in accelerating the climate crisis.”

The lawsuit was filed Monday just past 9:45 a.m. by Bucks County Solicitor Amy Fitzpatrick in the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas.

The lawsuit was filed against oil giants BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, Philips 66, Shell, and the American Petroleum Institute (API), a trade group for oil and natural gas firms. It seeks financial compensation for the damages connected to their role in climate change.

The lawsuit has been filed under claims of liability, negligent product liability, negligence, nuisance, trespass, and civil conspiracy.

The county is represented in the case by the law firm DiCello Levitt. The county won’t be paying the firm unless damages are awarded, Fitzpatrick said.

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The lawsuit makes Bucks County the first county government in Pennsylvania to challenge major oil companies in court. It follows a series of similar legal actions by other governments, including Chicago and Honolulu.

County officials have likened this lawsuit to previous ones against the tobacco and opioid industries. They said there was a need to hold companies accountable for their role in the climate crisis.

“Bucks County brings this action on its own behalf and in its capacity as a trustee of the public natural resources of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to hold these companies accountable for the damage they have caused in their decades-long climate deception campaign,” Fitzpatrick said.

The lawsuit aims to shift the financial burden of climate change from Bucks County taxpayers to the corporations.

Due to the actions of these companies, Bucks County has endured and will continue to face the impacts of climate change, including a growing trend of extreme weather events in the area, according to the filing.

The county, citing decades of documentation and statements from the oil industry, claims that residents of Bucks County were deceived about the dangers tied to the consumption of fossil fuels.

According to the lawsuit, the defendants have been aware for years of the impact their products would have on climate change and environmental instability. However, instead of revealing this crucial information, the companies chose to mislead the public about the risks associated with their products.

Highlighted in the lawsuit are specific severe weather incidents, such as the July 2021 storm that unleashed 8 to 10 inches of rain in Lower Bucks County, the devastating flooding in Upper Makefield Township in 2023 that resulted in seven deaths, and a noticeable increase in severe tornadoes.

The July 2021 flooding in Croydon.
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The county’s claims are supported by data and expert attributing worsened weather phenomena to climate change driven by human activity, according to the lawsuit.

Bucks County contends that the ongoing and future impacts of climate change, including worsening storms, heatwaves, and floods made worse by the rising waters of the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers, will continually pose risks.

Commissioners Bob Harvie, a Democrat, and Gene DiGirolamo, a Republican, along with Commissioner Chairperson Diane Ellis-Marseglia, a Democrat, all expressed strong support for the lawsuit. They stood together at the Bucks County Administration building to announce its filing.

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Fossil fuel companies have historically argued that climate change solutions do not lie within the court system. However, Bucks County are viewing the lawsuit as a crucial step in addressing the climate crisis.

“In recent years, we have experienced unprecedented weather events here in Bucks County that have repeatedly put residents and first responders in harm’s way, damaged public and private property and placed undue strain on our infrastructure,” said Ellis-Marseglia. “We’re already seeing the human and financial tolls of climate change beginning to mount, and if the oil companies’ own data is to be believed, the trend will continue.”  

Bucks County Commissioners Chair Diane Ellis-Marseglia addressing reporters.
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“This suit is our tool to recoup costs and fund public works projects like bolstering or replacing bridges, retrofitting county-owned buildings and commencing stormwater management projects, all of which will put us in the best possible position to weather what is certain to come,” she added. 

“These companies have known since at least the 1950s that their ways of doing business were having calamitous effects on our planet, and rather than change what they were doing or raise the alarm, they lied to all of us,” said DiGirolamo. “The taxpayers should not have to foot the bill for these companies and their greed.”

Commissioner Gene DiGirolamo talks about the lawsuit.
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DiGirolamo, whose family farmed for years in Bensalem Township, said he’s noticed the weather become more severe over the years. He said the citizens and government end up paying for the impacts of manmade climate change.

“I’ll be very honest with you,” DiGirolamo said. “We had some really bad weather back in the 60s and 70s and 80s when I was farming. I just never remember the extreme weather conditions that we’ve had here, not only in Bucks County, but I mean throughout the region and throughout the country extreme weather. How many people it has affected?”

When asked by reporters, DiGirolamo said he thinks climate change isn’t a political issue and it’s impacts will be felt by everyone for years to come.

“This is something what we have to fix,” he said. “For our children and our grandchildren, and I often think of them, we have to protect them and we’ve got to do something together.”

“It is unconscionable that while we were working hard to reduce our impact on the climate crisis, some of the biggest companies in the world were deliberately undercutting those efforts through their deceptive business practices,” Harvie said.

Commissioner Bob Harvie answering a reporter’s question.
Credit: Tom Sofield/

The county has taken steps towards sustainability, including planning a solar field in Bristol Township and purchasing electric vehicles.

The American Petroleum Institute rebuffed the county’s claims and called it “meritless” and “politicized.”

“Climate policy is for Congress to debate and decide, not a patchwork of counties and courts.” said API Senior Vice President and General Counsel Ryan Meyers.

An ExxonMobil spokesperson said the “claims are meritless and do nothing to address climate change; instead, they distract from the work we’re doing to lower emissions around the world.”

ConocoPhillips and Phillips 66 declined to comment on the lawsuit, and the other defendants did not respond.

Credit: Tom Sofield/

The Pennsylvania Energy Infrastructure Alliance, which is a coalition that support private investment in pipeline and energy infrastructure, issued a statement that said the bipartisan group of county commissioners was playing politics ahead of the 2024 election. The county commissioners were reelected last year.

“These local lawsuits do nothing to address our real energy challenges,” said Kurt Knaus, a spokesperson for the group.

Center for Climate Integrity, an environmental organization, issued a study last year that Bucks County faces $955 million in climate adaptation costs by 2040.

Richard Wiles, president of the Center for Climate Integrity, said his group supports Bucks County lawsuit.

“By taking Big Oil companies to court for their climate lies, Bucks County joins a growing wave of communities that are demanding accountability and taking action to make polluters pay for a crisis these companies knowingly fueled and lied about for decades,” he said.

About the author

Tom Sofield

Tom Sofield has covered news in Bucks County for 12 years for both newspaper and online publications. Tom’s reporting has appeared locally, nationally, and internationally across several mediums. He is proud to report on news in the county where he lives and to have created a reliable publication that the community deserves.

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