Strong Optics at Attorney General's Climate Conclave but Weak on Details, Litigators

The announcement Tuesday that two more attorneys general are investigating whether ExxonMobil and other fossil fuel companies misled the public about the reality of global warming raised more questions than it answered - particularly as to whether this round of attorney general activism really has goals - or resources - like those of the state tobacco lawsuits of twenty years ago.

Some seventeen attorneys general attended or sent representatives to the all-day meeting hosted by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, which was not in fact about litigation specifically, but about how to fight the the climate obstructionism of fossil fuel companies and their allies.

With this new round of announcements, four AGs - from New York, California, Massachusetts and the U.S. Virgin Islands -  are now running active investigations.  

Only four months after New York started its first-in-the-nation investigation into ExxonMobil, the sight of a small stage crowded with seven attorneys general pledging to hold fossil fuel companies accountable was an extraordinary one.

However, specifics about what a legal case against the fossil fuel companies would look like, or what the AGs hope to achieve, were notably absent from the press conference.  

In brief speeches, the AGs called attention to abnormal flooding, storms and other climate-related events that make climate a critical priority for state law enforcement along with the opioid epidemic, fraudulent investments and other business more usually associated with the office.

"We try as attorneys general to build a community, a safe community for all. But what good is that if annually everything is destroyed? And people begin to say, 'Why am I living here?' " said Attorney General Claude Walker of the Virgin Islands, noting the ever-worsening battering the islands receive as hurricanes become more destructive.

Tobacco Theory and Practice

Several other speakers compared the AGs' current mission on climate to the succesful campaign of tobacco lawsuits by attorneys general twenty years ago. However, missing from the press conference stage was one irreplaceable part of the AGs' tobacco effort of the 1990s: private lawyers.

With only a few exceptions, the AGs launched and won their fusillade of tobacco lawsuits with the help of private plaintiff's lawyers. 

These lawyers ran the cases both day-to-day and strategically. They came up with the Medicaid-recovery legal theory relied on by all 50 states, a theory that charged Big Tobacco with costing the states billions in health care costs over the years and one that forced the industry to agree to a settlement worth almost $300 billion, along with changes in marketing and advertising.

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CIC Sues Department of Energy for Southern Co. Kemper "Clean Coal" Documents

 Kemper County coal plantThe Climate Investigations Center has sued the U.S. Department of Energy to force the release of records pertaining to Southern Company's "clean coal" power plant in Kemper County, Mississippi.

In a lawsuit filed late last week in federal District Court in Washington, D.C., CIC noted that it has waited almost a year for the release of records spanning a period in the late nineties through 2010 during which the technology deployed at Kemper was being developed and the plant was planned and construction took place.

CIC's Freedom of Information Act request notes that Southern Company subsidiaries Mississippi Power and Southern Company Services were granted a total of $293 million in DOE funds, as well as hundreds of millions in tax credits from the Internal Revenue Service, to defray the enormous cost of what eventually became a 582 megawatt power facility.

DOE originally agreed to fund a coal project in Orlando, Florida that was about half the size of Kemper.  While the Orlando facility was to employ a first-of-its-kind technology that would burn coal more cleanly than older plants, it was not designed to capture carbon dioxide from the plant's waste stream.

Kemper theoretically will remove 65 percent of the carbon dioxide from the waste stream, compress it, and send it through a pipeline for injection into old oil fields to boost production - a process called Enhanced Oil Recovery. 

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Climate Hustler Marc Morano Hustles Climate in New Climate Hustle Film

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Might I humbly suggest we embrace right-wing spindoctor turned corporate think tanker Marc Morano’s latest project Climate Hustle as a welcome escape from reality?

It could be the start a whole new genre of film called climate change escapism.

Maybe I’m getting soft in my old age, but instead of my expected rant about how Marc Morano and the organization he works for are recipients of money from the likes ExxonMobil, I want to suggest we embrace Climate Hustle.  This film has the potential to take us to a strange and happy place, where for a little while we can suspend the hard realities of a warming world where atmospheric disruption, droughts, floods, food scarcity and the resulting conflict and instability are a hoax and do not exist.

I have only seen trailers for the film, but if Morano stays true to form in Climate Hustle, it will be heavy on conspiracy theories and seriously lacking actual scientific evidence. And much like the 9/11 conspiracy film Loose Change, it will be a fun and entertaining romp into the land of conspiracy theories, which is always a good place to visit from time-to-time to escape reality (and a lot cheaper and healthier than a quart of whiskey!).

The only caveat being to not dwell in Morano’s fantasy land too long or you might end up like him and his crew, wide-eyed and scrambling for any chance to prove you’re right and the whole world is wrong (and of course working against you). It’s also really hard these days to find matching shoes for a tin foil hat.

Morano knows all of this and having watched his career as a shock-jock for hire blossom over the years, it is clear that his motivations are far less about proving there’s conspiracy, as they are continuing to find a comfy niche career in the world of American ideological politics.

Climate Hustle will make its debut at the Paris Climate Conference which starts this weekend.

Although I am pretty sure Morano is not out to help appease the concerns of world leaders, global security experts, business leaders, religious leaders and civil society who will all be in Paris these coming weeks trying to put together a plan to avoid the worst consequences of our unremitting use of carbon intensive fossil fuels.

While I still have a ticket to go to the Climate Hustle debut in Paris, I know many who asked for tickets were confirmed, but then had their ticket revoked. Which is a shame, because we all need a little escapism to a world where climate change is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people, as Marc Morano’s former employer Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) put it.

Who knew Marc Morano would end up being such a hip trendsetter?!

See more at: The Republic Report

 

 

 

 

Might I humbly suggest we embrace right-wing spindoctor turned corporate think tanker Marc Morano’s latest project Climate Hustle as a welcome escape from reality?

It could be the start a whole new genre of film called climate change escapism.

Maybe I’m getting soft in my old age, but instead of my expected rant about how Marc Morano and the organization he works for are recipients of money from the likes Exxon Mobil, I want to suggest we embrace Climate Hustle.  This film has the potential to take us to a strange and happy place, where for a little while we can suspend the hard realities of a warming world where atmospheric disruption, droughts, floods, food scarcity and the resulting conflict and instability are a hoax and do not exist.

I have only seen trailers for the film, but if Morano stays true to form in Climate Hustle, it will be heavy on conspiracy theories and seriously lacking actual scientific evidence. And much like the 9/11 conspiracy film Loose Change, it will be a fun and entertaining romp into the land of conspiracy theories, which is always a good place to visit from time-to-time to escape reality (and a lot cheaper and healthier than a quart of whiskey!).

The only caveat being to not dwell in Morano’s fantasy land too long or you might end up like him and his crew, wide-eyed and scrambling for any chance to prove you’re right and the whole world is wrong (and of course working against you). It’s also really hard these days to find matching shoes for a tin foil hat.

Morano knows all of this and having watched his career as a shock-jock for hire blossom over the years, it is clear that his motivations are far less about proving there’s conspiracy, as they are continuing to find a comfy niche career in the world of American ideological politics.

Climate Hustle will make its debut at the Paris Climate Conference which starts this weekend.

Although I am pretty sure Morano is not out to help appease the concerns of world leaders, global security experts, business leaders, religious leaders and civil society who will all be in Paris these coming weeks trying to put together a plan to avoid the worst consequences of our unremitting use of carbon intensive fossil fuels.

While I still have a ticket to go to the Climate Hustle debut in Paris, I know many who asked for tickets were confirmed, but then had their ticket revoked. Which is a shame, because we all need a little escapism to a world where climate change is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people, as Marc Morano’s former employer Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) put it.

Who knew Marc Morano would end up being such a hip trendsetter?!

- See more at: http://www.republicreport.org/2015/marc-morano-climate-hustle-film-makes-great-climate-escapism/#sthash.gzNXidAZ.dpuf

Might I humbly suggest we embrace right-wing spindoctor turned corporate think tanker Marc Morano’s latest project Climate Hustle as a welcome escape from reality?

It could be the start a whole new genre of film called climate change escapism.

Maybe I’m getting soft in my old age, but instead of my expected rant about how Marc Morano and the organization he works for are recipients of money from the likes Exxon Mobil, I want to suggest we embrace Climate Hustle.  This film has the potential to take us to a strange and happy place, where for a little while we can suspend the hard realities of a warming world where atmospheric disruption, droughts, floods, food scarcity and the resulting conflict and instability are a hoax and do not exist.

I have only seen trailers for the film, but if Morano stays true to form in Climate Hustle, it will be heavy on conspiracy theories and seriously lacking actual scientific evidence. And much like the 9/11 conspiracy film Loose Change, it will be a fun and entertaining romp into the land of conspiracy theories, which is always a good place to visit from time-to-time to escape reality (and a lot cheaper and healthier than a quart of whiskey!).

The only caveat being to not dwell in Morano’s fantasy land too long or you might end up like him and his crew, wide-eyed and scrambling for any chance to prove you’re right and the whole world is wrong (and of course working against you). It’s also really hard these days to find matching shoes for a tin foil hat.

Morano knows all of this and having watched his career as a shock-jock for hire blossom over the years, it is clear that his motivations are far less about proving there’s conspiracy, as they are continuing to find a comfy niche career in the world of American ideological politics.

Climate Hustle will make its debut at the Paris Climate Conference which starts this weekend.

Although I am pretty sure Morano is not out to help appease the concerns of world leaders, global security experts, business leaders, religious leaders and civil society who will all be in Paris these coming weeks trying to put together a plan to avoid the worst consequences of our unremitting use of carbon intensive fossil fuels.

While I still have a ticket to go to the Climate Hustle debut in Paris, I know many who asked for tickets were confirmed, but then had their ticket revoked. Which is a shame, because we all need a little escapism to a world where climate change is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people, as Marc Morano’s former employer Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) put it.

Who knew Marc Morano would end up being such a hip trendsetter?!

- See more at: http://www.republicreport.org/2015/marc-morano-climate-hustle-film-makes-great-climate-escapism/#sthash.gzNXidAZ.dpuf
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It’s not just what #ExxonKnew, it’s what #ExxonDid next

In the wake of Inside Climate News and the Columbia University/LA Times investigations into ExxonMobil’s history on climate science, the company has been terribly busy telling the world that it stands by its scientific work.

cohen.pngIn a classic example of Public Relations 101, ExxonMobil’s lead spokes, Ken Cohen, has been huffing and puffing and standing up for climate science, pushing everybody’s focus onto the peer reviewed studies Exxon scientists published. 

But this isn’t the point.  Yes, it’s now clear that #ExxonKnew.  As Neela Bannerjee of Inside Climate News said this week about her investigation

“I came away with enormous regard for many of the Exxon scientists who researched climate change and for the managers and executives who gave them the resources and latitude to freely investigate a problem their own company was contributing to.”

 But it’s what #ExxonDid next is what we think the NY Attorney General should focus on in his investigation.   If Exxon had capable climate scientists on the case, and it knew all that it did, then how could it have done what it did next? 

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Peabody Settles with NY Attorney General, Will Disclose More on Climate - But Not Much

 

Peabody Energy settled a multi-year investigation by the New York state attorney general's office last night, agreeing to make more truthful disclosures to investors about climate change-related risks to its coal mining operations.

However the settlement fell far short of what some had hoped for given that the investigation of the world's largest private sector coal producer, originally launched in 2007 under then-Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, had been renewed in 2013 under current Attorney General Eric Schneiderman with further demands for information from the company.

That fact, combined with the investigation launched by Schneiderman into ExxonMobil last Wednesday that is looking not only at investor disclosures about regulatory, litigation and other risks to the oil giant stemming from climate change but also at XOM's ties to climate denial, raised hopes that the Peabody probe might have been expanded to include Peabody's longstanding and robust support of climate denial. 

Instead, Schneiderman came away with a far more modest victory.

Peabody agreed to no longer pretend it couldn't estimate the potential impact of new greenhouse gas emissions regulations or taxes.  The AG's office found that Peabody hired a consultant who projected in March 2014 that a $20 per ton carbon tax would reduce coal demand for electric power generation in 2020 by between 38% and 53%.  This was not disclosed to investors.

The company also agreed to no longer cherry-pick only the most generous future projections of coal use issued by the International Energy Agency, finding that "Peabody provided incomplete and one-sided" data from IEA, which is widely relied on as an authority on future global energy developments.

Peabody minimized the significance of its agreement with the attorney general, noting in a press release that there is "no other action associated with this settlement, no admission or denial of wrongdoing and no financial penalty."

The company claimed it "has always sought to make appropriate disclosures," and that "the most recent disclosures planned for the company's third quarter 2015 Form 10-Q address the matters raised by the New York Attorney General." 

Schneiderman, who had been under increasing pressure to investigate energy companies for allegedly covering up the hazards of fossil fuel use, issued an 18-page subpoena for a wide assortment of records from ExxonMobil dating back to January 1, 1977. The company must respond by December 4th.

The news that Peabody was still under investigation accompanied Schneiderman's  announcement on November 6th of his investigation of ExxonMobil, which apparently will zero in on the contradiction between the company's own scientific research confirming the hazards of global warming and its subsequent funding of climate denial to protect its profits.

Peabody was one of five corporations originally swept up in Cuomo's 2007 inquiry into alleged failures to adequately disclose the potential risks to their businesses from climate change in their annual reports to shareholders.  The other four were all utility companies - Dynegy, AES, Xcel and Dominion Resources - three of which were building or planning to build more coal-fired power plants. Dynegy, AES and Xcel settled within two years of receiving subpoenas. Now only Dominion remains.

"The general idea was to take this lens of transparency from the securities regulation world where you have to be transparent on all sorts of risks that you take with investors, especially if they're in the public market," said Matthew Gaul, former chief of the Investor Protection Bureau, a unit within the office of the New York's attorney general that along with its Environmental Protection Bureau, ran the investigation of the energy companies.

A September 2007 letter from the attorney general's office to Peabody Energy CEO Gregory Boyce expressed concern over the company’s plan to build new coal-fired power plants using conventional technology without the means to capture CO2 emissions, and noted that adding these plants to the nation's existing coal fleet “will subject Peabody Energy to increased financial, regulatory, and litigation risks” that haven’t been disclosed to shareholders.  At the time, Peabody was a partner in building Prairie State, a coal-fired power plant in Illinois. 

The AG's letter warned that "Peabody Energy cannot excuse its failure to provide disclosure and analysis by claiming there is insufficient information concerning known climate change trends and uncertainties.”

The three utilities that settled with Cuomo had to make changes to what they disclosed to investors. They began explaining the financial risks arising from any future climate change-related regulations, laws, litigation, plus the actual physical impacts of climate change. (For example, increasingly frequent and violent downpours can flood a coal mine.)  And the three companies began disclosing their carbon emissions and projected increases along with how they planned to reduce them. 

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Heartland Institute Attacks Pope Francis: Calling climate action "paganism"

   At a press conference in Philadelphia last week, the climate denier group the Heartland Institute denounced Pope Francis's call for urgent action on global warming, accused the pontiff of "left wing" politics and said he is returning the Catholic church to "paganism."

   The press event on September 17th at Independence Hall saw a trio of Heartland officials peppered with questions about their often outlandish scientific claims as well as the hundreds of thousands of dollars Heartland has received from big oil and coal companies like ExxonMobil and Alpha Natural Resources.  Heartland failed to answer those questions directly, claiming no single funder gives more than 5 percent of their budget.  However, investigation has previously revealed that in 2012 one "anonymous donor" contributed more than half of Heartland's budget.

   The Heartland delegation offered a number of theories about what drove the Vatican to begin its anti-climate change campaign. 

   "What is environmentalism but nature worship," said Gene Koprowski, the group's marketing director, during a presentation that dropped allusions to everything from obscure medieval religious rituals to psychiatrist Carl Jung.  "I'm wondering as a scholar if pagan forms are returning to church."

   Jay Lehr, a hydrologist who is Heartland's scientific director despite a criminal conviction for defrauding the Environmental Protection Agency,  said that the overwhelming consensus that global warming is real and is driven by fossil fuel emissions is dead wrong, and that in fact, the earth is entering a cooling period that will be caused by a decline in sunspot activity.

   Lehr argued that what he referred to vaguely as "observational data" contradicted the scientific community's views.  However, when questioned by reporters, he failed to cite any studies or actual measurements to support his claims.

   The press event was apparently an effort by Heartland to gets its message across to Philadelphians ahead of the Pope's hugely-anticipated arrival in the city later this week.

   All of this infuriated a local environmental activist, who called Heartland a group of irresponsible right wing ideologues.

   "I'm a Philadelphian who cares about this city and this city will be under water if we don't do something about climate change," she said as she was forced out of the room.

   That ended the press conference.

**************************************************************** 

More resources on Heartland Institute's legacy of lunacy on climate change:

DeSmogBlog library on Heartland

Climate Investigations blog "This is your planet in Heartland Institute drugs"

Jay Lehr on Polluterwatch

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Edelman Shuns Coal and Climate Denial - The year in review

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Obama's Arctic Adventure - Michael Klare commentary

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Michael Klare, professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College, (my alma mater for full disclosure), has written extensively about the geopolitics of oil, the quest for "extreme energy", exploring to the ends of the Earth for increasingly scarce resources, as well as the re-colonization of North America by the oil industry.

Michael recently has written on the Arctic scramble for the New York Times. His periodic columns on TomDispatch are worth following. Read his most recent essay on the 'double dip' oil price collapse and the geopolitical and corporate implications  for very expensive oil drilling schemes like Shell's misadventure to the Alaskan Arctic.

Klare is also the author of numerous books on the subject including The Race for What’s Left (2012);  Resource Wars (2001); Blood and Oil (2004) and Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet (2008).

Basically, read all the Michael Klare you can get your hands on and you will be a much smarter person.

I asked Michael for his thoughts on Obama's trip to the Arctic this week where the President is being challenged to reconcile his "all of the above" energy policy with his awareness of the climate change crisis and policies to address it.  

Here is his response, boiling down the Obama Administration's situation nicely:  

The Arctic represents the ultimate irony of climate change.  On one hand, it is being altered more rapidly and severely than any other region by climate change, with widespread coastal erosion, habitat destruction, and wildlife endangerment.  On the other hand, global warming is melting the sea ice that until now has impeded the exploitation of the Arctic's vast oil and natural gas reserves, triggering a frenzy of drilling and development by major energy firms - and thus adding to the carbon emissions responsible for climate change in the first place.

In identifying the areas of the world that are most at risk of experiencing a catastrophic "tipping point" from climate change, involving irreversible consequences, the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) puts the Arctic first. 

"For the Arctic region, new evidence indicates a biophysical regime shift is taking place, with cascading impacts on physical systems, ecosystems, and human livelihoods. For Arctic marine biota, the rapid reduction of summer ice cover causes a tipping element that is now severely affecting pelagic (undersea) ecosystems as well as ice-dependent mammals such as seals and polar bears." (Report of Working Group II, chap. 18, pp. 1015-16)

But for oil and gas companies like Royal Dutch Shell, the disappearance of summer sea ice means they can now drill for longer periods in the Arctic, making such ventures attractive.  Shell has been trying for five years to exploit undersea reserves Alaska's segments of the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas (southern extensions of the Arctic) and now, with the approval of the Obama administration, is finally about to begin drilling.  Such drilling, says Shell, is essential in light of the world's continuing reliance on fossil fuels and the exhaustion of existing fields in other parts of the world.  

For President Obama - now in Alaska to tout his commitment to slowing climate change - these ironies could not be more stark.  He is expected to visit coastal villages in the far north to voice concern over the threat from coastal erosion and the melting of permafrost, while also facing protests from environmentalists and indigenous peoples who oppose his approval of Shell's drilling operations, saying they will accelerate climate change.  His defense of the Shell decision, that so long as we continue to consume oil and gas we should produce them here in the USA, sounds to many as pure hypocrisy.

In approving Shell's action, Obama also seems to be responding to geopolitical considerations: notably, the growing anti-Russian sentiment in Washington.  Faced with the decline of its own sub-Arctic oil and gas reserves, Russia seeks to increase its reliance on reserves in the Russian Arctic.  Such efforts have been a top priority for the Putin regime, which depends for 50% of its revenues on oil and gas exports. 

To consolidate Russia's presence in the region, Moscow has filed claims to a vast swath of the Arctic's undersea territory, stretching all the way to the North Pole, and begin a major buildup of its Arctic-capable combat forces.  This, in turn, has created some concern among geopolitical thinkers in Washington, who claim the United States is not doing enough to counter Russian advances in the Arctic. 

These views were reflected in an article by Steven Lee Myers in the New York Times on August 30, suggestively titled "U.S. Is Playing Catch-Up With Russia in Scramble for the Arctic."  Myers quotes Adm. Paul F. Zukunft, Commandant of the Coast Guard (which conducts most U.S. operations in the Arctic) as complaining of an inadequate US response to recent Russian efforts in the Arctic (as compared to our more vigorous response during the Cold War): “When Russia put Sputnik in outer space, did we sit with our hands in pocket with great fascination and say, ‘Good for Mother Russia’?”  

The fact that any US drive to contest Russia in the so-called "scramble" for the Arctic would probably result in more oil and gas drilling - exactly the opposite of what a climate change-focused policy would call for - does not seem to have penetrated the thinking of top US policymakers. 

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National Black Chamber of Commerce: Fossil Funders Revealed

NBCCprogramsponsors.jpgThe National Black Chamber of Commerce has been among more meddlesome corporate climate change solutions blockers for the past two decades.  They are under increasing pressure these days.

The organization is small, basically Harry Alford and his spouse Kay Debow run it, but they have fought above-their-weight in the climate change battles over the past two decades. This is because NBCC is a great curve ball for corporate interests, purporting to represent the interests of African American people and businesses, they have served as a front group for invisible fossil fuel interests who know that putting the NBCC out on the front lines gives the appearance of a diverse movement against climate laws and policies.

There have been multiple vigorous critics of the NBCC through the years.  Most recently:

Media Matters did a great roundup on NBCC's efforts and counterpoints.

Inside Climate News recently covered the NBCC attacks on the Obama Clean Power Plan as part of a larger effort to confuse minorities about the policy.

Van Jones and Green For All took on NBCC's attacks on the Clean Power Plan

Congressman Alcee Hastings of Florida put out a statement decrying NBCC's corporate ties.

But then in a breakthrough investigation two weeks ago, the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting revealed several new corporate funders of the National Black Chamber of Commerce via their annual meeting held just north of Miami in August 5-7, 2015.

Here posted for the first time, is the page from the program from the NBCC annual meeting listing all the corporate sponsors, courtesy of Frank Alvarado, Florida Center for Investigative Reporting.

Bob Bullard laid down this comment on the FCIR webpage responding to the article

Robert D. Bullard · Dean, Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University

The National Black Chamber of Commerce for more than a decade has been spreading propaganda and talking points of the white U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Most black folks know Harry Alford does not represent them or the black business community at large. One need only peruse his organization's thin membership and major contributor list to understand what's really going on. This is not rocket science. African Americans were essential in the founding of the U.S. environmental and climate justice movement because our communities are disproportionately and adversely impacted. Anyone who says black folks don’t care or are not involved in environmental, energy or climate issues don’t really know what the hell is going on and is severely misinformed. We have the facts. The facts show we are not standing idle on the sidelines while national climate action plans are formulated and move forward. Some of our most prestigious organizations and institutions, including our churches and faith based groups, our civil rights organizations such as the NAACP and a large consortium of our historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) have taken ownership of climate justice and energy justice as their issue. They are not likely to one of two individuals from the National Black Chamber of Commerce derail their quest.

Climate Progress picked up the story this week, noting that NBCC's climate policy interventions have gone on for many years.

Through the ExxonSecrets database and ExxonMobil Foundation documents, we have followed Exxon and ExxonMobil funding of NBCC every year since at least the late 1990s through 2014, with a grand total of $950,000 in grants through those years.  We never knew about Chevron, Southern Company or Koch Industries funding until now. 

 

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Former Dept. of Justice Official Says Exxon News Worsens Liability Picture

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The former Department of Justice lawyer who led the watershed lawsuit against tobacco companies, says that the news out today about oil giant ExxonMobil knowing as early as 1981 about the threat posed by climate change could worsen the fossil fuel industry's liability picture.

Not only the media are buzzing over the revelation today that Exxon executives knew as early as 1981 of the significance of climate change and the dangers of carbon dioxide emissions, yet continued to fund scientists and a global misinformation campaign to sow doubt about whether global warming is real for another 27 years. Lawyers thinking of suing the industry for its role in warming the planet will certainly take note of what could be a potent new piece of evidence.

The admission came in an email by Leonard Bernstein, a chemical engineer who was Exxon’s in-house climate specialist.

The revelations in the Bernstein email had a familiar ring to former federal Department of Justice lawyer Sharon Eubanks. Eubanks led DOJ’s successful lawsuit against the tobacco companies under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) laws that proved a fifty-year-long conspiracy by Big Tobacco to create doubt about smoking’s hazards.

Eubanks said the revelations in the Bernstein email could significantly worsen the fossil fuel industry’s liability picture:

“It starts to look like a much longer conspiracy. It’s like what we discovered with tobacco – the more you push back the date of knowledge of the harm, the more you delay any remediation, the more people are affected. So your liability can grow exponentially as the timeline gets longer.”

Image credit: Mike Mozart on Flickr

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