Exxon Gets Sued by Conservationists and Legal Help from Conservatives

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Exxon Gets Sued by Conservationists and Legal Help from Conservatives

As attorneys general of Texas and Alabama pledge to assist oil giant with fraud probe, conservation group files first lawsuit since cover-up revealed

The lawsuit "aims to hold ExxonMobil accountable for decades of dishonesty." (Photo: Johnny Silvercloud/flickr/cc)

An environmental group has filed the first non-governmental lawsuit against ExxonMobil since the fossil fuel giant's campaign of misinformation was exposed last year.

The Boston-based Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) announced Tuesday that it served a formal notice against Exxon for its decades-long effort to suppress information about climate change and spread public doubt about the impacts of greenhouse gases. CLF launched an investigation against the corporation after InsideClimate News exposed its cover-up in 2015, and found Exxon to be endangering New England communities by misleading regulators over the climate-readiness of its facilities.

"ExxonMobil's strategy of publicly denying the very risks its scientists have known for decades has direct impact on Greater Boston communities," said CLF President Brad Campbell. "ExxonMobil knowingly and unlawfully misled regulators about whether its Everett facility can withstand rising seas, more intense precipitation, and other climate impacts without spewing oil and other toxic pollutants into adjoining neighborhoods, the Mystic River, and the Boston Harbor."

The lawsuit "aims to hold ExxonMobil accountable for decades of dishonesty and require that the Everett facility meet the legal standards for climate-readiness," Campbell said.

Roseann Bongiovanni, an environmental justice advocate with the Boston-area community group Chelsea Green Space, added, "A decade ago, ExxonMobil spilled thousands of gallons of oil into our river and denied its wrongdoing for months until confronted and forced to pay by the Department of Justice. Today, we have a greater understanding of the full extent of ExxonMobil's climate denial and we have another opportunity to show the world that we won't stand for it."

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey in March became one of 17 attorneys general seeking to hold fossil fuel companies accountable for their role in the cover-up of climate change. Others include California's Kamala Harris and New York's Eric Schneiderman.

But that alliance faces a growing opposition from the attorneys general of conservative states like Texas and Alabama, who on Monday announced they would be taking Exxon's side in the fight.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange claim Virgin Islands Attorney General Claude Walker—who launched a racketeering probe into the oil giant in April—is overstepping his legal bounds.

In a statement, Walker said fraud investigations are par for the course for attorneys general and said he seeks to "to protect consumers and investors in the Virgin Islands."

Paxton and Strange "wish to lend a hand to ExxonMobil, which is their choice," Walker said.

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