Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Exxon Pushes Back on California Cities Suing It Over Climate Change

The oil giant is attacking its accusers through a Texas court, similar to how it tried to block investor fraud investigations by New York and Massachusetts.

Some coastal California cities now build up sand berms to help protect houses from storm surges and high tides. Others are dealing with erosion and coastal flooding as sea levels rise with climate change. (Credit: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
In keeping with a pattern of fighting in court to defend its record on climate change, ExxonMobil has gone on the offensive again to contest a series of civil lawsuits filed by coastal California communities that claim the company is responsible for damages caused by sea level rise.

While the civil lawsuits against Exxon were filed in California, the oil giant is launching its fight through a court on its home turf—in Texas.

In a petition filed Monday, Exxon complains it has become the target of a "collection of special interests and opportunistic politicians" who it says are abusing their authority to impose their viewpoint that Exxon and other fossil fuel companies concealed the dangers of greenhouse gases.

Exxon and 36 other fossil fuel companies became the target last year of civil lawsuits by four coastal cities and three counties in California that demand the companies take financial responsibility for infrastructure upgrades to offset the effects of climate change.

The lawsuits accuse the companies of knowing for nearly five decades "that greenhouse gas pollution from their fossil fuel products had a significant impact on the Earth's climate and sea levels."  (A 2015 investigation by InsideClimate News showed through Exxon's own documents that the company's scientists warned its top executives about the risks of climate change as early as the 1970s and 1980s.)

In the 60-page petition filed in Tarrant County, Texas, District Court, Exxon seeks a court order allowing company lawyers to depose 16 government officials and an attorney representing some of the plaintiffs and to force them to surrender internal records. The company says those depositions and documents are necessary to allow it to determine whether evidence exists to pursue claims against the cities and counties for alleged abuse of process and civil conspiracy.

"It is reasonable to infer that the municipalities brought these lawsuits not because of a bona fide belief in any tortious conduct by the defendants or actual damage to their jurisdictions, but instead to coerce ExxonMobil and others operating in the Texas energy sector to adopt policies aligned with those favored by local politicians in California," attorneys for the company wrote.

"ExxonMobil finds itself directly in that conspiracy's crosshairs," the oil giant's attorneys state.

The petition claims that the California lawsuits are an extension of efforts by a coalition of Democratic state attorneys general pledged to holding fossil fuel companies accountable for climate change and born out of  a meeting of green groups intent on ruining the industry.

"Even though it has long acknowledged the risks presented by climate change, supported the Paris climate accords, and backed a revenue-neutral carbon tax, ExxonMobil has nevertheless been targeted by state and local governments for pretextual investigations and litigation intended to cleanse the public square of alternative viewpoints," Exxon argued.

Read more at Exxon Pushes Back on California Cities Suing It Over Climate Change

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