• Michael McDevitt
    FEB 21, 2024

    News in brief: Chicago sues oil and gas companies; Cook County receives MacArthur grant for criminal justice reform efforts


    Chicago’s mayor announced a massive lawsuit against multiple oil and gas companies and an oil industry trade association. And Cook County has received additional philanthropic dollars for a criminal justice reform program.

    OIL AND GAS LAWSUIT — The city is suing six oil and gas corporations and the industry’s largest trade association “for deceiving Chicago consumers about the climate dangers associated with their products,” the mayor announced Tuesday. The lawsuit, filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County, names BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, Phillips 66, Shell and the American Petroleum Institute as defendants, the city said. “There is no justice without accountability,” Mayor Brandon Johnson said in a statement. “From the unprecedented poor air quality that we experienced last summer to the basement floodings that our residents on the West Side experienced, the consequences of this crisis are severe, as are the costs of surviving them. That is why we are seeking to hold these Defendants accountable.” The complaint was filed as Johnson and the city are also seeking to largely prevent the use of oil and gas to power and heat new buildings in the coming years. The city is seeking relief through compensatory and loss-of-use damages, penalties and fines for statutory violations, disgorgement of profits The city is arguing the companies’ conduct has led to climate change and related impacts on the city, such as extreme heat, flooding and other weather-related natural disasters. “While we must take every action to mitigate the impacts of climate change going forward, today’s lawsuit is about accountability for past behavior, and who should pay for the dire consequences of the climate crisis that Chicago, and the world, are already dealing with,” Chief Sustainability Officer Angela Tovar said.

    JUSTICE REFORM GRANT — Cook County announced Tuesday it had received a $625,000 capstone grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to recognize “over eight years of progress towards safely reducing the local jail population while addressing inequities in the justice system.” The county said the latest grant marks $7.3 million invested in the county by the foundation as part of its $381.5 million Safety and Justice Challenge initiative, which seeks to increase alternatives to incarceration and reduce racial inequities in the criminal justice system. “This initiative has been an important catalyst that has helped us safely and sustainably reduce the population of our jail while centering collaboration and community engagement,” Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said in a news release. “As we embark on this final phase of the challenge, we remain committed to working across agencies and centering the needs and perspectives of residents and communities that have been disproportionately impacted by crime, violence and mass incarceration.” The new grant money will be used to continue to support programs the county has developed under the initiative, such as an automated court reminder system, a system to recall outdated misdemeanor warrants and allow people to resolve active warrants without facing arrest and a diversion program to steer youth who are selling drugs toward education and legal employment.

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