California cities want Big Oil to pay for costs of climate change

Coastal cities in California that are vulnerable to flooding caused by climate change are fighting back against Big Oil.

San Francisco and Oakland filed lawsuits this week demanding that ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, ConocoPhillips and Royal Dutch Shell pay billions to cover the costs of sea walls and other protections against rising sea levels.

The aggressive strategy from the Bay Area makes San Francisco and Oakland the first major U.S. cities to attempt to shift the costs of climate change from the public to fossil fuel companies.

San Francisco and Oakland fear that billions of dollars of property in low-lying areas will be swamped by rising sea levels that scientists blame on climate change.

“These fossil fuel companies profited handsomely for decades while knowing they were putting the fate of our cities at risk,” San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said in a statement announcing the lawsuits, which were filed in Superior Court in San Francisco and Alameda Counties.

In San Francisco, which is surrounded by water on three sides, at least $10 billion of public property and $39 billion of private property is at risk from rising sea levels, the lawsuit estimates. Oakland warns that rising sea levels will “disproportionately impact and endanger” low-income people and minorities, as well as the city’s airport.

These concerns have been heightened by the devastating impact of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria on parts of the United States and Caribbean in recent weeks.

As CNN has reported, the consensus among scientists is that the consequences of climate change — rising sea levels and warming oceans — made these hurricanes worse than they would have been in the past. That’s because rising sea levels make storm surges from hurricanes worse, while warming waters help intensify the storms themselves.

The San Francisco lawsuit alleges that leading oil companies for decades ignored scientists who “warned them in stark terms that fossil fuel usage would cause global warming” that poses “‘catastrophic’ harm.”

Worse, Exxon and other oil companies have been accused of downplaying these risks to the public.

Comparing Big Oil to tobacco companies, San Francisco and Oakland argue that oil companies engaged in an “organized campaign to deceive consumers about the dangers of massive fossil fuel production.”

That argument may be strengthened by a recent Harvard study. The research found that for nearly 40 years Exxon publicly raised doubt about the dangers of climate change even as scientists inside the oil company acknowledged the growing threat. “We conclude that ExxonMobil misled the public,” the peer-reviewed study said.

Exxon has dismissed that Harvard study as “inaccurate and preposterous” and claims it was “paid for, written and published by activists.”

Exxon,BP and ConocoPhillips did not provide comments in response to the California lawsuits.

Chevron, which is based in San Ramon, California, said it “welcomes serious attempts to address the issue of climate change, but these suits do not do that.”

Shell reiterated that it has “long recognized the climate challenge.” However, the company said this complex issue should be addressed through policy and cultural change, “not by the courts.”

The American Petroleum Industry, a lobbying group, said in a statement that the natural gas and oil industry “will continue to play a leading role in driving down U.S. greenhouse gas and other emissions.”

But some California cities fear it may be too late to avoid the consequences of climate change.

“The global warming-induced sea level from past fossil fuel usage,” the San Francisco lawsuit said, “is an irreversible condition on any relevant time scale: it will last hundreds or even thousands of years.”

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Gas supply is getting better in Florida

Florida drivers are having a much easier time finding fuel in the wake of Hurricane Irma.

In fact the biggest problem today isn’t gas stations without gas. It’s gas stations without power.

“Power is by far the biggest issue there. There’s plenty of fuel there now,” said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst with the Oil Price Information Service.

About 30% of more than 7,000 stations for which data is available were not selling gas as of midday Friday, according to crowdsourcing platform GasBuddy. That’s a big improvement from the 72% of reported stations that weren’t selling gas early Tuesday.

The bigger problem now appears to be stations that still are without power. About 21% of the reported stations in the state do not currently have power, according to GasBuddy. Power outages hit Florida hard as Irma drove up the state. As of Friday, 1.9 million utility customers were still without power.

Kloza said stations with power but without gas likely are having problems hiring trucks to bring gas from the various terminals to the stations. Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy, agrees.

“There’s still a lot of temporary disruptions,” he said. “There’s a lot of stations that still need to be refueled, and there’s limited manpower for delivering fuel.”

Kloza said most stations with power should have gas by early next week, at which point he thinks the panic buying which has been part of the problem will ease.

“There have been runs on stations. People are tank topping because they’re worried they won’t find gas when they need it,” he said. Social media has been adding to the problem, he said. A report that a station has just gotten a delivery causes people in the area to rush there to buy.

One of the big reasons for the improvement in the supply of gasoline: Ships have finally been able to bring gasoline to Florida ports. Because the state has few refineries of its own, it needs to rely on tankers and barges to deliver virtually all of its fuel.

Port Everglades, Port Canaveral and Port of Tampa are all open and “actively prioritizing fuel tanker ships,” according to the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

“There’s been an armada of ships and barges bringing gasoline down to Florida,” said Kloza.

Florida officials also said that highway patrol troopers were escorting fuel resupply trucks to places that needed them.

The federal government has offered assistance as well. It waived restrictions on what types of ships can deliver fuel and on the types of fuel that can be used.

–CNNMoney’s Matt Egan contributed to this story.

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Gas supply is getting better in Florida

Florida drivers are having a much easier time finding fuel in the wake of Hurricane Irma.

In fact the biggest problem today isn’t gas stations without gas. It’s gas stations without power.

“Power is by far the biggest issue there. There’s plenty of fuel there now,” said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst with the Oil Price Information Service.

About 30% of more than 7,000 stations for which data is available were not selling gas as of midday Friday, according to crowdsourcing platform GasBuddy. That’s a big improvement from the 72% of reported stations that weren’t selling gas early Tuesday.

The bigger problem now appears to be stations that still are without power. About 21% of the reported stations in the state do not currently have power, according to GasBuddy. Power outages hit Florida hard as Irma drove up the state. As of Friday, 1.9 million utility customers were still without power.

Kloza said stations with power but without gas likely are having problems hiring trucks to bring gas from the various terminals to the stations. Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy, agrees.

“There’s still a lot of temporary disruptions,” he said. “There’s a lot of stations that still need to be refueled, and there’s limited manpower for delivering fuel.”

Kloza said most stations with power should have gas by early next week, at which point he thinks the panic buying which has been part of the problem will ease.

“There have been runs on stations. People are tank topping because they’re worried they won’t find gas when they need it,” he said. Social media has been adding to the problem, he said. A report that a station has just gotten a delivery causes people in the area to rush there to buy.

One of the big reasons for the improvement in the supply of gasoline: Ships have finally been able to bring gasoline to Florida ports. Because the state has few refineries of its own, it needs to rely on tankers and barges to deliver virtually all of its fuel.

Port Everglades, Port Canaveral and Port of Tampa are all open and “actively prioritizing fuel tanker ships,” according to the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

“There’s been an armada of ships and barges bringing gasoline down to Florida,” said Kloza.

Florida officials also said that highway patrol troopers were escorting fuel resupply trucks to places that needed them.

The federal government has offered assistance as well. It waived restrictions on what types of ships can deliver fuel and on the types of fuel that can be used.

–CNNMoney’s Matt Egan contributed to this story.

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Miami Beach hotels offer $99 rates for residents displaced by Irma

A select group of Miami Beach hotels is offering a special $99 rate for residents displaced by Hurricane Irma.Mayor Philip Levine said Wednesday that while many homes are still without electricity in the city, some local hotels have agreed to charge no…

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Introducing Hong Kong’s millionaire party pads

“House party” is not a phrase in the average Hongkonger’s vocabulary.

In the world’s most expensive housing market, property on average costs an eye-popping $1,925 per square foot. Narrow that focus to Hong Kong Island, and it rises to $1,925 per square foot.

With space at a premium, tiny flats are the norm. Entertaining guests at home is very much an activity for the privileged.

In 2015, French native Saoud Maherz decided to bring house parties to Hong Kong by launching millionnaire party pad rental agency Exclusive Venue by Rouge.

Celebrities, financiers and real estate moguls loan out their properties for a night, and are typically compensated with between $10,000 and $19,000 to leave their property.

Renters pay between $102,000 and $128,000 for packages that, as well as the property, include staff, catering, and security.

“In Paris, lots of people host guests in their own homes — it’s cultural,” Maherzi tells CNN.

“But in Hong Kong, (parties are) all in the same venues. It’s the ballroom of the Grand Hyatt, it’s a restaurant space that you take over. There’s a big lack of imagination because of the lack of venues.

“With this kind of event, I was trying to educate people.”

CNN profiles four of the most exclusive house party pads up for rent.

Villa with a killer view

Value: $44.7 million*

Monthly rent: $60,067*

Located on Bowen Road in the affluent Mid-levels area of Hong Kong Island, this 678-square-meter (7,300-square-foot) mansion is owned by local clothing magnate Samuel Chan Wing-sun, who is notorious for throwing extravagant parties.

With an incredible view of Hong Kong Island’s famous skyline, including the iconic Bank of China, the home features a private swimming pool and garden — both a rarity in densely populated Hong Kong, especially just 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) from the Central downtown district.

The house has also played host to some high-profile events planned by Maherzi, such as the closing party of 2016’s Le French May, an annual cultural festival celebrating all things Gallic.

Baller beachfront apartment

Value: $12.8 million*

Monthly rent: $23,005

This 195-square-meter (2,100-square-foot), four-bedroom apartment is nestled in the uber-exclusive oceanfront neighborhood of Repulse Bay — home to 110 Repulse Bay Road which earlier this year was reported to be the priciest property in the world, on a per square foot basis, with an estimated price tag of $87.3 million.

The property features a 93-square-meter (1,000-square-foot) balcony that overlooks the beach, which is ideal for dinners and private cocktail parties for up to 200 people.

“People usually love being on the terrace, where there’s a breeze and the sound of the ocean,” Tatiana Mercat, who lives at the apartment with her financier husband and their two children, tells CNN.

Mercat doesn’t have to worry about gatecrashers when leasing out her home to party-goers.

Getting past the door without an invite is “impossible”, says Maherzi, as stringent security at the main entrance, front door and inside the home is included.

Sky-high duplex

Value: $17.3 million*

Monthly rent: $11,503

Located just below the prestigious Peak area, which is named after the 552-meter (1,811 foot) tall mountain that is the highest point on Hong Kong Island, this apartment is a duplex of 279 square meters (3,000 square feet).

It has three bedrooms, but the pieces de resistance are its two private terraces, which boast extensive views over Victoria Harbor. One terrace normally would serve as a bar area during parties.

French financier Pierre, who declined to give his last name for privacy reasons, has been renting the apartment since 2012.

“I like the place very much. It’s a beautiful one so I think it makes sense to have events here and to share that,” he tells CNN.

“These kinds of events are very New York-style … it would appeal to an international (crowd).”

Home on the hills

Value: $38.4 million

Monthly rental: $41,535

This house is located on the hills below the Peak, which is widely considered the most exclusive neighborhood in Hong Kong.

Covering 372 square meters (4,000 square feet), it boasts a wraparound terrace, private garden and swimming pool — and panoramic views of the hills of Hong Kong Island.

Sometimes the owners will stay and enjoy the party, especially if it’s a corporate event.

“Option one is, we include the owner on the guest list — something the brands are more than happy to do,” Maherzi explains. “If it’s a big cocktail party, or if maybe the owner doesn’t want to be here, or can’t be here … we offer them a two- or three-day staycation in a hotel.”

Finally, what about noise complaints? Maherzi says it’s not an issue.

“We invite all of the neighbors.”

*Prices and rental estimates provided by Spacious.

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