Washington and Oregon among 20 states investigating Exxon for climate fraud
March 31st - During the 1990s, attorneys put the tobacco industry on trial for driving efforts to claim cigarettes were not harmful despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
Jump to 2016, and we may be witnessing a moment eerily similar to the tobacco era trials. Last year was the hottest year on record, but ironically this may be remembered as a major turning in the fight against global pollution. Last fall a massive investigation revealing that oil and gas behemoth ExxonMobil knew for decades that burning their products caused climate change. An exposé from InsideClimate News, later corroborated by the LA Times, revealed that Exxon’s own scientists discovered the phenomenon in the late 1970s. Leaked internal documents revealed that rather than take proactive action, executives used the information to hid global climate impacts from the public. This has motivated several state Attorneys General to pursue formal investigations. New evidence also suggests that beyond Exxon, other leaders throughout the oil and gas industry not only knew but participated in the cover-up.
The American Petroleum Institute together with the nation's largest oil companies ran a task force to monitor and share climate research between 1979 and 1983, indicating that the oil industry, not just Exxon alone, was aware of its possible impact on the world's climate far earlier than previously known.
Announced this week, Attorneys General from 20 states, including Oregon and Washington, will form a coalition to investigate “whether fossil fuel companies misled investors and the public on the impact of climate change on their businesses." Both the public and investors are key aspects of the investigation; investigators have floated the possibility of a conspiracy to deceive the United States as well as numerous financial crimes. While still a devastating blow without it, state level investigations could trigger similar actions on the federal level.
Over the last several years, numerous reports and investigations have linked the oil and gas industry to massive funding efforts for organizations and politicians that cast doubt on climate science. As a manner of industry practice, many pseudo-science organizations and campaigns against climate policy have been funded, run, and coordinated through oil, coal and gas companies. Decades of delay and debate were perpetuated by these efforts despite the recent revelations that Exxon—and the industry as a whole—knew about climate change for years.
Tobacco companies never fully recovered from their mid-1990s series of convictions, fines and massive shift in societal norms. As investigations pile up, it’s possible the oil industry may be stumbling down a similar path.
- Nick Abraham
Editor Oil Check Northwest
[email protected] @oilchecknw