Stage 1 fire restrictions, enacted for unincorporated areas of western Boulder County.

News Archive

June 24, 2024

Boulder Court Advances Historic Climate Accountability Case Against ExxonMobil and Suncor


Boulder County, City of Boulder Legal Battle Against Oil Giants Becomes One of the First U.S. Climate Lawsuits to Defeat a Motion to Dismiss


Key points:

  • A court in Boulder has decided that the City of Boulder and Boulder County’s lawsuit against ExxonMobil and two Suncor entities can continue.
  • The court did not agree with the oil companies’ request to dismiss the case.
  • The communities filed this lawsuit because the oil companies’ actions have greatly contributed to an altered climate.
  • The rising costs of dealing with the climate crisis led these communities to take legal action so that taxpayers are not stuck footing the bill alone.
  • This legal fight has been going on since 2018.
  • The communities have worked hard to keep their lawsuit in a local court instead of moving it to a federal court.
  • To receive this information in another language, contact Gloria Handyside by phone 303-441-1622 or email ghandyside@bouldercounty.gov.

Boulder, CO — In a landmark ruling, the Boulder District Court largely denied dismissal motions from ExxonMobil and several Suncor entities, allowing Boulder County and the City of Boulder to proceed with their climate accountability lawsuit. This decision marks a significant milestone, rejecting nearly all the defendants’ legal challenges and affirming the communities’ ability to seek damages for climate-related harms.

For five years, these Colorado communities countered attempts to move the case to federal court—a battle that reached the U.S. Supreme Court. Now they have won an important victory back in state court. Friday's district court ruling stands as one of the first in the U.S. where a climate accountability case has survived a dismissal motion.

“Boulder is increasingly burdened by the impacts of an altered climate, and our community cannot keep bearing the costs alone while those responsible avoid paying their fair share,” said City of Boulder City Manager Nuria Rivera-Vandermyde. “This lawsuit is about protecting our community from the impacts of the climate crisis, and the significance of this ruling toward that goal cannot be understated. We hope this will be a step forward for both the Boulder community and for broader climate accountability efforts.”

“The court's decision reaffirms our stance: we are suffering from the impacts and heavy costs of the climate crisis, right here, right now,” said Boulder County Commissioner Ashley Stolzmann. “Today, we take a meaningful step towards accountability and ensuring our voices and hardships are acknowledged.”

The court's comprehensive 81-page decision rejected the defendants’ argument that state law is preempted, affirming that those harmed by an altered climate have the right to legal recourse against those responsible. Representing the interests of Boulder County and the City of Boulder in this case are EarthRights International, Kevin Hannon of Singleton Schreiber, LLP, and the Law Offices of David Bookbinder.

“Compensating the injured has been the purview of state common law since Colorado's founding,” said Kevin Hannon, partner at Singleton Schreiber, LLP. “While climate harm is a different context, we are only asking to apply established Colorado common law to hold Exxon and the Suncor entities accountable. It is the defendants who have been asking courts for new legal rules, and we are glad the court rejected that request.”

This landmark decision also notably dismissed the defendants’ attempts to mischaracterize the nature of the case.

“Since the beginning, defendants have been arguing against a case we did not plead,” said EarthRights International Senior Attorney Sean Powers. “Plaintiffs are not trying to litigate a solution to the climate crisis, they are seeking redress for harms they have suffered and will continue to suffer. The only conduct at issue is defendants’ own: what they knew, when they knew it, and what they did with that knowledge.”


Aerial photo of the town of Lyons in Boulder County, Colorado.

The town of Lyons in Boulder County, Colorado.

Collage of all three Boulder County Commissioners