Attorney General Karl A. Racine of D.C is suing four of the largest oil and gas companies in the world. He spoke at a news conference and said that ExxonMobil, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, and Chevron have all violated the District’s consumer protection law. They presented a “false picture” to residents about the damage their products have on the environment.
— AG Karl A. Racine (@AGKarlRacine) June 25, 2020
The lawsuit was filed in the D.C. Superior Court. It alleges that these four companies knew about the adverse environmental effects of their products since the 1950s. The suit seeks a court order for the companies to pay civil penalties, provide financial relief for consumers in the District, and to stop their deceptive campaigns.
In a statement, Racine said:
“For decades, these oil and gas companies spent millions to mislead consumers and discredit climate science in pursuit of profits. The defendants violated the District’s consumer protection law by concealing the fact that using fossil fuels threatens the health of District residents and the environment. OAG filed this suit to end these disinformation campaigns and to hold these companies accountable for their deceptive practices.”
Three of the four companies responded. ExxonMobil’s Casey Norton said, “This lawsuit further demonstrates the ongoing coordinated, politically motivated campaign against energy companies. 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.”
Anna Arata, a Shell spokeswoman, laid the blame on society. “Addressing a challenge as big as climate change requires cooperation between all segments of society, not lawsuits that masquerade as climate action and impede collaboration for meaningful change.”
Chevron said that the suit was “meritless” and that is was a distraction from “constructive efforts to address the important policy issues presented by climate change.”
BP didn’t comment.
Specifics From The Lawsuit
In the lawsuit, the OAG addressed all four companies as defendants. It states that for over five decades, the defendants have “systematical and intentionally misled consumers in DC” when it comes to how their products cause climate change, which is “one of the greatest threats facing humanity.” The list of accusations includes:
- Independent and coordinated campaigns,
- Deceiving DC consumers about Defendants’ fossil fuel products warming the planet,
- Disrupting the climate in a “quest to drive profits”
- Defendants continue to mislead DC consumers to this day.
The suit noted that the oil companies have made massive profits from their deception. These profits enabled the “unabated and expanded extraction, production, promotion, marketing, and sale of Defendants’ fossil fuel products, to the detriment of DC consumers and the public generally.” The suit specifically says that these companies’ actions violated the District’s CPPA, D.C. Code §§ 28-3901, et seq.
API Study & ExxonMobil’s Scientist Warnings
These violations are both misrepresentations and omissions of information that influence DC consumers’ decisions when it comes to buying products made with fossil fuels. The suit also cites a 1968 report paid for by the American Petroleum Institute (API) that projected atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations would rise from 280 to 370 parts per million (ppm) by 2000 as proof that the oil companies knew about the deadly effects of climate change — they knew and actively sought to lie and manipulate for more profits anyways.
In 1982, scientists from ExxonMobil also predicted that the atmospheric carbon dioxide would reach nearly 415 ppm by 2019 — and this proved true on May 11, 2019, when they actually surpassed 415 ppm. This was the Earth’s highest level in 3 million years. The suit points out that the oil corporations knew that these increases in greenhouse gas concentrations would increase the global temperatures and wreak havoc on the planet. They knew it would cause long-lasting changes in all parts of the climate system and result in severe and irreversible impacts for all living beings on this planet.
The Oil Companies Knew & Still Planned To Mislead
Defendants knew that these events would threaten human health, food, security, agriculture, water supplies, and other aspects of human life — yet they still sought to manipulate and deceive, and are still doing so today. They also knew that there is a very narrow window that existed to reverse the increase of greenhouse gas emissions before the catastrophic effects of global warming become unavoidable.
While knowing this, the oil companies shirked their duty to society and instead used tobacco-industry-style campaigns that involved industry associations and front groups to actively mislead the public about these threats and the damaging nature of their fossil fuel products.
Today’s Active Coordinated Misinformation Campaign
This actually is still happening now. Oil companies have claimed through their advertising campaigns directed at DC consumers that their businesses are invested in lower-carbon tech and renewable energy sources. These claims, the suit says, are false. The suit noted that each oil company has invested minimally in renewable energy — in other words, just enough to claim they are doing a good thing in a misleading way while focusing on expanding their fossil fuel production.
The oil companies have also said that their fossil fuel products are “green” or “clean” and that if you are to use these products, you can reduce or even reverse the dangers of climate change. The truth is, none of their products are “green” or “clean.” They all pollute and heat up the planet. They are a threat to our existence.
In A Nutshell
These four companies are accused of intentionally hiding the truth about their products while lying to the public and saying, “Hey if you buy this, you’ll save the planet.” They even had their own scientists conduct studies about how their products impacted the climate, but instead of trying to make a cleaner product, they lied, hid, and manipulated their way into billions of dollars — at the cost of every living being on this planet.
It’s no wonder that the DC Attorney General is leading this suit.
The Impact Of This Suit
If this lawsuit is won, we can see the impact in many positive ways. Remember those old tobacco commercials? I vaguely do and remember my mother complaining about how they had to start advertising what their products did to people when they smoked them.
Imagine turning on the TV and seeing an Exxon ad talking about the dire effects of their products on the environment — and doing so honestly. I’m not talking about a pretty little ad with emotional music and sweet words about how renewables are awesome. I’m talking about an ad that says, “If you use our products, you might kill your neighbors” — that type of brutal honesty.
In DC, if this suit is won, steps leading into that direction will be taken. These companies will have to stop their misinformation campaign and start being honest. I truly hope the District wins this case.
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