Minnesota sues Exxon, Koch and API over climate change

James Marshall
June 28, 2020

A day after Minnesota's attorney general filed a consumer fraud lawsuit against ExxonMobil, Koch Industries and the main oil and gas industry trade group, the nation's capital has joined a growing chorus of communities across the country demanding redress from fossil fuel companies.

"We're here suing these defendants - API, ExxonMobil and Koch - for hiding the truth, confusing the facts and muddling the water to devastating effect", Ellison said at a news conference. "But it's a violation of Minnesota law to mislead consumers about the products you sell, and the Attorney General has laid out a powerful case that these companies did exactly that".

Minnesota is the first Midwestern state to get in on the climate liability fight and the first plaintiff in the recent wave of climate cases to take aim at Koch Industries and the American Petroleum Institute. Its suit comes as MA pursues similar consumer protection claims against fossil fuel companies.

The District of Columbia today sued ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron and Shell for intentionally misleading District consumers about the role the companies' products play in causing climate change, with the ultimate goal of protecting their profits.

Minnesota's lawsuit "is part of a coordinated, politically motivated campaign against energy companies" that wastes "millions of dollars of taxpayer money" without significantly alleviating climate change, Exxon spokesman Casey Norton said.

The API did not directly comment on the lawsuit, but said the oil industry had been working to provide "affordable, reliable energy to USA consumers while substantially reducing emissions and our environmental footprint".

"Any suggestion to the contrary is false", said API Chief Legal Officer Paul Afonso.

A Koch official did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Numerous cases have been snarled in procedural battles for years, but several courts have recently given the green light for state and local governments to pursue their claims. Thus far, Rhode Island is the only state that has filed a "cost recovery" lawsuit. The cases, brought by the cities of Oakland and San Francisco, had previously been dismissed by a federal judge, who was overturned by the appeals court. Exxon wanted the matter in federal court.

In December, a NY state judge cleared Exxon of fraud claims, saying New York's attorney general had failed to establish that the oil giant had deceived investors about how it accounted for the cost of future climate-change regulation.

Most of the climate litigation seeks damages through so-called public nuisance suits, though other claims, like negligence, are also often involved.

"The fraud, deceptive advertising, and other violations of Minnesota state law and common law that the lawsuit shows they perpetrated have harmed Minnesotans' health and our state's environment, infrastructure, and economy", Ellison said in a statement.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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