A nonprofit that works to get governments to sue fossil-fuel energy producers is slated to give a presentation to some members of the Allegheny County Council next week — essentially putting the county on the first step of a path that could ultimately lead to a lawsuit like one announced by Bucks County last month. 

But the chairperson of the environmental committee that will host the presentation from the Center for Climate Integrity says it’s “too soon” to conclude Allegheny County is actually thinking about filing suit.

The agenda for Allegheny’s Committee on Sustainability and Green Initiatives’ meeting on Wednesday, April 10, shows only one discussion topic: “Climate Accountability.” The meeting agenda also notes that a member of the Center for Climate Integrity is an invited guest.

According to its website, the Center for Climate Integrity is a nonprofit that “helps communities hold oil and gas corporations accountable for the massive costs of climate change.” CCI put out a celebratory press release when Bucks County announced it was filing suit.

Given that a presentation to an environmental committee would be the logical first step on a path that could lead to a lawsuit, Broad + Liberty asked several members of the council if the decision to sue was a fait accompli.

“I would not be comfortable saying that the County is considering taking legal action of the kind that you suggest,” said Councilmember Anita Prizio, who chairs the Sustainability and Green Initiatives Committee.  “The County Solicitor — who represents the full County in litigation matters — works at the direction of the Chief Executive, not County Council. Although the Council has in the past approved motions requesting that the County Solicitor evaluate the merits of filing certain legal actions, it has not directly dictated the County Solicitor’s exercise of his or her authority.” 

“Moreover, none of Council’s committees — including the Committee on Sustainability and Green Initiatives — has the authority to bind the full Council to action; this can only be done by a vote of the full Council itself,” Prizio continued. “There is no item on the Committee’s April 10 agenda that would recommend authorizing any action by the Council or other County agency.  The discussion topic is just that: a conversation undertaken to provide information to the Committee, and no votes are taken on discussion topics.”

Despite Prizio’s objections, she’s also promoting the upcoming hearing using CCI-branded communications, like this post on X that promised, “Bucks County is the first Pennsylvania government to file a climate accountability lawsuit against Big Oil companies, but it likely won’t be the last.” 

If the pitch were ultimately successful, lawsuits against “Big Oil” from Pennsylvania’s second and fourth largest counties would seem destined to reignite fossil fuel production as a key presidential campaign issue in one of the most crucial swing states in the nation, with the election now a short seven months away — especially given the Biden administration’s “pause” on exports of liquid natural gas.

Launching lawsuits from Pennsylvania have come to be viewed as an especially gratifying coup for groups like CCI, given the commonwealth’s rising influence because of its incredible natural gas production that exploded twenty years ago, creating thousands of jobs and uncounted millions in tax revenue.

A U.S. Energy Information Administration website says Pennsylvania “is the nation’s second-largest natural gas producer after Texas, with natural gas output in the state totaling 7.5 trillion cubic feet in 2022.”

CCI’s President Richard Wiles said placing a lawsuit in Pennsylvania or Ohio “would be like a cherry on top,” according to a November report from Politico Pro.

CCI has made other inroads in Pennsylvania politics as well. Delaware County Council Chair Monica Taylor is listed in the organization’s “Leaders Network” and recently participated in a CCI press conference announcing the release of a CCI study on climate costs. Like Taylor, Councilwoman Prizio is also in CCI’s “Leader’s Network.”

Energy producers and their allies certainly won’t be taking these advances sitting down.

David Taylor, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association, said these kinds of lawsuits are “the worst kind of self-defeating nonsense.”

“If the Allegheny County Council would decree that using oil and natural gas and coal is destroying the planet, they of course can lead the way by stopping use of those things first,” Taylor said. “And in particular, I would point to the enormous amount of jet fuel that’s used at Pittsburgh International Airport, which is of course a petroleum product. I would say that Allegheny County Public Works would need to stop paving the roads with asphalt, because that’s also a petroleum product. Certainly all the revenues that the county gets from the various natural gas wells that are at work — that revenue will be given away when all of those wells are shut down,” Taylor continued.

“Modern civilization is impossible without hydrocarbons and petrochemicals, and anybody who pretends otherwise is selling propaganda. And so this is just — I can’t say it any better — self-defeating nonsense.” 

IRS documents show that the Rockefeller Fund has donated about $2.25 million to CCI for three years in a row (2020, 2021, 2022). Compared to CCI’s overall revenue, the Rockefeller Fund would then make up about 40 to 50 percent of CCI’s annual income.

The Rockefeller Fund has been linked in dozens of media reports over the years as supporting these types of government lawsuits against oil producers, and even Biden’s recent moves against LNG. For example, a Fox News report from February produced emails showing the Rockefeller Fund was intimately involved in one of the original suits of this kind.

“The communications — obtained by watchdog group Government Accountability & Oversight (GAO) and shared with Fox News Digital — show Lee Wasserman, the longtime director of the billionaire-fueled Rockefeller Family Fund, and other climate advocates first pitched the idea of subpoenaing oil giant ExxonMobil to then-New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office in early 2015,” the report said.

Another February report, this one from the Wall Street Journal, said, “Charities controlled by members of the Rockefeller family and billionaire donors were key funders of a successful campaign to pressure President Biden to pause new approvals of liquefied natural gas exports from the U.S.” 

Todd Shepherd is Broad + Liberty’s chief investigative reporter. Send him tips at tshepherd@broadandliberty.com, or use his encrypted email at shepherdreports@protonmail.com. @shepherdreports

3 thoughts on “Allegheny County council member: it’s ‘too soon’ to say if county will consider ‘Big Oil’ lawsuit”

  1. “Modern civilization is impossible without hydrocarbons and petrochemicals” is just as laughably weak an argument as the south arguing that their way of life was impossible without slavery. Of course, that’s the only narrative that ruling class corporate elites in big oil have left now that the decades of coordinated propaganda campaigns from globalist corporations like BP and exxon mobile have been exposed. It’s really amazing how the right thinks they’re somehow sticking it to ruling class elites by not being “woke” as if they actually cared about that and not just their bottom line. https://gizmodo.com/exxon-lobbyists-reveal-in-secret-recordings-how-they-ma-1847205392 (I assume I’ll get the predictable attacks on the source rather than the content 🥱) And of course the fact that b&l feels the need to publish this nothingburger of a story about a non-existent lawsuit tells you that they’re happy to obediently fall in line with globalist ruling class elites at Chevron et al. and swamp lobbyists for big oil.

    1. It’s funny and ironic that your argument comparison links energy to slavery.
      The use of hydrocarbons and petrochemicals was an economic driver for replacement of human labor with mechanized production.
      The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is 0.04%, the amount due to humans is 0.0012%. This amount of CO2 will NEVER heat the Earth, EVER.
      According to the geological record, there is no relationship between CO2 levels and the Earth’s temperature, even when 15x today’s CO2 level.
      This is all data obtained by NOAA. The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere today is comparable to around 4.3 million years ago when sea level was about 75 ft higher than today, the average temp was 7 degrees F higher than in pre-industrial times, & large forests occupied areas of the Arctic that are now tundra,” NOAA reports.
      So, there were no people, the sea level was higher, and there were forests on the now-frozen tundra. Can’t blame oil.
      Big picture, little picture scam.
      On Aug. 4, 1997, Enron’s CEO Lay met with President Clinton and Vice President Gore in the White House to prepare a strategy for the upcoming U.N. Kyoto conference, pushing a global CO2 carbon trading market that both Gore and Enron coveted. An internal Enron memorandum at that time stated that Kyoto would “do more to promote Enron’s business than almost any other regulatory initiative outside the restructuring [of] the energy and natural gas industries in Europe and the United States. Gore and his partner David Blood, the former chief of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, were poised to make windfall profits selling CO2 offsets as stakeholders in the Chicago Climate Exchange. Speaking before a 2007 Joint House Hearing of the Energy Science Committee, Gore told members, “As soon as carbon has a price, you’re going to see a wave [of investment] in it … There will be unchained investment. Thanks to a 2010 Republican mid-term congressional House cleaning that didn’t occur. Instead, it was Enron that ultimately got capped, with its CEO Lay dying in prison. Gore has fared far better, having harvested lots of green for that hot air he continues to peddle … enough to heat his 20-room mansion (not including eight bathrooms) and pool that consumes more energy in a month than the average American household does in a year. Meanwhile, SO2, blamed for forest damage, and CO2, attributed to a looming climate disaster, are both natural plant fertilizers that make the world greener. This, as once again, costly emission-credit trading scams premised upon unsupportable crisis hyperbole benefit none of the rest of us.

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