Story originally published by Drilled News
On Monday, September 14, Connecticut announced it had filed a lawsuit in state court against oil major ExxonMobil for alleged “decades of deceit” on the risks of climate change that stem from burning fossil fuels.
“ExxonMobil sold oil and gas, but it also sold lies about climate science,” Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said in a press release. “ExxonMobil knew that continuing to burn fossil fuels would have a significant impact on the environment, public health and our economy. Yet it chose to deceive the public. No more.”
At a time when much of the West Coast is engulfed in flames, fossil fuel companies are facing a torrent of climate accountability lawsuits from cities and states with four new cases filed this month alone.
Connecticut’s lawsuit comes on the heels of back-to-back lawsuits filed against Exxon and other oil and gas companies by the city of Charleston, South Carolina and by the state of Delaware on September 9 and 10, respectively. Hoboken, New Jersey sued some of these same fossil fuel firms on September 2. All of these cases are centered on allegations that the industry deliberately deceived the public on the climate risks of its fossil fuel products in order to stave off climate policies and protect profits.
“ExxonMobil’s strategy to create uncertainty about climate science successfully kept consumers purchasing ExxonMobil products by deceiving consumers about the serious harm caused by ExxonMobil’s industry and business practices,” Connecticut argues in its complaint. The state says this deception is ongoing through “greenwashed advertising” that downplays Exxon’s significant role in causing climate change while misleadingly portraying the company as seriously committed to solving the problem.
This deception, Connecticut argues, constitutes violations of the state’s anti-fraud statute, called the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act. The lawsuit brings eight counts of violations under this Act against Exxon. Connecticut is seeking to compel Exxon to stop its deceptive acts, disgorge profits gained through its decades of deception and pay civil penalties, disclose all research the company or its affiliates have conducted on climate, and fund a “corrective education campaign to remedy the harm inflicted by decades of disinformation.” The state of Minnesota, which sued Exxon and several other major oil entities in June, is also seeking this kind of corrective educational campaign funded by the industry .
“ExxonMobil’s campaign of deception has contributed to myriad negative consequences in Connecticut, including but not limited to sea level rise, flooding, drought, increases in extreme temperatures and severe storms, decrease in air quality, contamination of drinking water, increases in the spread of diseases, and severe economic consequences,” the complaint states.
“The success of ExxonMobil’s campaign of deception has helped to ensure that people of the State of Connecticut will continue to experience the catastrophic consequences of climate change for the foreseeable future,” the complaint further argues.
Responding to a request for comment, Exxon spokesperson Casey Norton sharply criticized the lawsuit. “Legal proceedings like this waste millions of dollars of taxpayer money and do nothing to advance meaningful actions that reduce the risks of climate change,” Norton said in an emailed statement.
“ExxonMobil will continue to invest in efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while meeting society’s growing demand for energy,” Norton added. “The claims are baseless and without merit. We look forward to defending the company in court.”
Connecticut is now the fifth state currently suing Exxon over alleged climate deception. Massachusetts filed a case on October 24, 2019 accusing the company of misleading investors and consumers in violation of the state’s consumer protection law. That lawsuit was filed while Exxon was on trial in New York in a high-profile securities fraud case brought by the New York attorney general accusing the company of misleading investors. Exxon ultimately prevailed in that case, but the judge noted in his ruling last December, “Nothing in this opinion is intended to absolve Exxon Mobil from responsibility for contributing to climate change in the production of its fossil fuel products.”
The Massachusetts case against Exxon is advancing in Massachusetts state court. Other states that have filed climate accountability lawsuits include Rhode Island, which sued 21 fossil fuel companies in July 2018; Minnesota, which sued Exxon, Koch Industries and the American Petroleum Institute on June 24 this year; and Delaware, which sued 30 fossil fuel companies plus API last week.
District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine also filed a consumer fraud lawsuit against the four largest investor-owned oil and gas companies on June 25, just one day after Minnesota AG Keith Ellison announced his state’s suit.
Overall, 23 communities across the U.S. have filed climate accountability lawsuits against the fossil fuel industry over the last three years.