Friday, April 01, 2016

Could Exxon Meet Its Waterloo in a New York Courtroom?

It's quite a posse on Exxon's trail - the attorneys-general of New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, Connecticut, Virginia, Vermont, California, Delaware, D.C., Illinois, Iowa, Maine, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington and the U.S. Virgin Islands. (It's just as interesting to look at the states that haven't joined in)

Led by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, the group ...announced their commitment to pursuing an ongoing investigation of Exxon for what climate activists have decried as a long-term campaign of climate denial and deception.

“Years from now, this meeting by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and his colleagues here today may be well be looked back upon as a real turning point,” said former Vice President Al Gore, who raised the public’s awareness of the dangers of climate change in the 2006 film An Inconvenient Truth.

The AG’s investigation was initially provoked by published reports, based on internal company documents, suggesting that during the 1980s and '90s, Exxon used scientific research on climate change to plan its business, while arguing publicly that the scientific evidence of global warming was not clear. The reports were cited in stories by reporters from the nonprofit InsideClimate News as well as the Columbia University Energy and Environmental Reporting Fellowship, which published its stories in partnership with the Los Angeles Times.

"This is about facts, and science, and transparency," said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. "Fossil fuel companies that deceived investors and consumers about the dangers of climate change should be, must be held accountable," Healey said, noting the "troubling disconnect between what Exxon knew, what industry folks knew, and the company and industry chose to share with investors and the American public."

Schneiderman addressed critics of the investigation who argue it is interfering with First Amendment rights:
The First Amendment, ladies and gentlemen, does not give you the right to commit fraud. We are law enforcement officers, all of us do work, every attorney general does work on fraud cases. We are pursuing this as we would any other fraud matter, you have to tell the truth, you can't make misrepresentations of the kinds we've seen here and the scope of the problem we're facing.

The historic alliance of state AGs demonstrates the depth of the issue and its importance to the nation’s response to addressing climate change. "The scope of the problem we are facing, the size of the corporate entities and alliances and trade associations [fighting science-based climate policy] is massive and it requires a multi-state effort," said Schneiderman.

Katherine Sawyer, senior international organizer for watchdog group Corporate Accountability International, explained the similarity to the Big Tobacco investigations in an emailed statement following the press conference:
"In the ’90s, investigations by attorneys general were the beginning of the end for Big Tobacco as we knew it and ushered in a series of lawsuits that shuttered its front groups, forced the release of internal documents, and held it liable to pay the high cost of its impacts on society. Just as a similar coalition did with Big Tobacco, this powerful coalition of state Attorneys General are leading the way in holding Exxon and the rest of the fossil fuel industry accountable for their decades of deception and protecting climate policy from their profit-driven interference.”

Hailing the newly formed coalition of the nation’s top cops "for standing strong against the fossil fuel industry," Sawyer also noted Exxon's "efforts to undermine the Clean Power Plan."

Defrauding shareholders, hmmm. Now there's something Americans take very, very seriously. It's sort of like not telling the passengers to get in the lifeboats before the ship sinks.


John's aghast said...

Can we get these guys to come over to BC?

The Mound of Sound said...

Yeah, I wish. Our A.G. works for a government very much in bed with the bad guys.