A US small-town mayor sued the oil industry. Then Exxon went after him
The mayor of Imperial Beach, California, says big oil wants him to drop the lawsuit demanding the industry pay for the climate crisis
Serge Dedina is a surfer, environmentalist and mayor of Imperial Beach, a small working-class city on the California coast.
He is also, if the fossil fuel industry is to be believed, at the heart of a conspiracy to shake down big oil for hundreds of millions of dollars.
ExxonMobil and its allies have accused Dedina of colluding with other public officials across California to extort money from the fossil-fuel industry. Lawyers even searched his phone and computer for evidence he plotted with officials from Santa Cruz, a city located nearly 500 miles north of Imperial Beach.
The problem is, Dedina had never heard of a Santa Cruz conspiracy. Few people had.
“The only thing from Santa Cruz on my phone was videos of my kids surfing there,” Dedina said. “I love the fact that some lawyer in a really expensive suit, sitting in some horrible office trying to find evidence that we were in some kind of conspiracy with Santa Cruz, had to look at videos of my kids surfing.”
That’s where the laughter stopped.
The lawyers found no evidence to back up their claim. But that did not stop the industry from continuing to use its legal muscle to try to intimidate Dedina, who leads one of the poorest small cities in the region.
The mayor became a target after Imperial Beach filed a lawsuit against ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP and more than 30 other fossil-fuel companies demanding they pay the huge costs of defending the city from rising seas caused by the climate crisis.