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Daily Telegraph: Eskimos file lawsuit against oil companies

By Tom Leonard in New York
Last Updated: 12:01am GMT 28/02/2008

An Eskimo village that is melting into the sea off Alaska has launched a legal challenge against BP, Shell and more than 20 other oil and power companies, alleging that their contribution to global warming is threatening to destroy the tiny community.

The 391 inhabitants of Kivalina, a traditional Inupiat Eskimo village built on an eight-mile barrier reef between the Chukchi Sea and Kivalina river, say sea ice that has always protected them is eroding because of higher temperatures and that the energy companies should pay to move them to safer ground.

In a lawsuit filed in a federal court in San Francisco on Tuesday, the tribe, which is a federally recognised as the Alaska Native village of Kivalina, sued nine oil companies, 14 power utilities and America’s biggest coal company. The companies include Exxon Mobil and ConocoPhillips.

The cost of relocating Kivalina, 625 miles north-west of Anchorage, to the mainland has been estimated at up to £200 million.

The lawsuit invokes the federal common law of public nuisance.

The suit also claims that the energy companies are guilty of conspiring to “create a false scientific debate” about global warming to deceive the public.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Kivalina by six law firms and two campaign groups, the Centre on Race, Poverty & the Environment, and the Native American Rights Fund.

Kivalina depends on salmon fishing as well as subsistence hunting of whale, seal, walrus and caribou.

The energy companies have yet to comment on the lawsuit. But an Exxon Mobil spokesman said it took the issue of climate change seriously.

“Exxon Mobil is taking action by reducing greenhouse gas emissions in our operations,” the spokesman said.
 
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/main.jhtml?xml=/earth/2008/02/28/weskimo128.xml

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