Connecticut sued ExxonMobil Corp. in state court Monday, accusing the fossil fuel giant of misleading investors and the public about its contribution to climate change, costing the state precious time to limit damage to the environment.
Attorney General William Tong announced the legal challenge in Hartford Superior Court that’s intended to force the Irving, Texas, energy company to pay for remediation, restitution for spending to account for climate change, disgorgement of profit, civil fines, disclosure of climate research and other penalties.
“ExxonMobil knew that continuing to burn fossil fuels would have a significant impact on the environment, public health and our economy,” Tong said. “Yet it chose to deceive the public.”
Connecticut residents “should not have to bear the expense of fortifying our infrastructure to adapt to the very real consequences of climate change,” he said.
ExxonMobil has denied it misrepresented climate change data and says it’s investing in clean energy. Pushing back against accusations it misled investors and the public about climate change, it said in 2018 it’s “focused on finding science-based solutions” and has spent $8 billion in lower-emission energy since 2000.
Connecticut joins other states and municipalities that have gone to court to fight ExxonMobil over accounting for the costs of climate change regulation. ExxonMobil won a legal victory in December when a New York state judge ruled that state Attorney General Letitia James failed to demonstrate the company violated a state law used to protect against shareholder fraud.
Katie Dykes, Connecticut’s commissioner of Energy and Environmental Protection, did not single out ExxonMobil, but said in a news release that fossil fuel companies have engaged in a “misinformation campaign … stymied policy that cost us decades of inaction.”
As a result, state officials say Connecticut “lost out on decades of opportunities to prepare for and mitigate climate change” that is causing sea level rise, flooding, drought, increased temperatures, reduced air quality and more frequent severe storms.
The state has been battered by three major storms since 2011, with the most recent in August that knocked out power to as many 800,000 electricity customers for days. Even if the current rate of warming remains unchanged, the state and Connecticut residents will be forced to spend billions of dollars to “adapt to the consequences of global warming,” state officials say.
Connecticut recently reported its hottest summer on record, according to the National Weather Service. The Hartford area has also experienced its driest summer on record.
The lawsuit is “built on solid evidence that contrasts internal company memos and research with false and deceptive public messages that continue today,” officials say. Records show Exxon knew burning fossil fuels contributed to global warming as early as the 1950s, the state says.
Exxon “had the unique ability to disclose its research and help find a sustainable energy solution,” state officials say.
Instead, ExxonMobil launched a “campaign of deception” that used advertising, skewed research, speeches, books and presentations that falsely portray the company as meaningfully working to combat climate change, the state said.
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