AGs threaten law suits, claiming fossil fuel companies misled investors, public about risks of climate change
Why are Democratic attorney generals from 16 states preparing to sue American oil companies for “climate change denial”? By their own admission, to support the Obama Administration’s climate change policies.
The AGs gathered in New York this week to announce the legal challenge. They were joined on stage by the climate change PR machine known as Al Gore, which is pretty much the Bat Signal that partisan politics and political theatre are afoot.
“With gridlock and dysfunction gripping Washington, it is up to the states to lead on the generation-defining issue of climate change,” said NY Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.
“We stand ready to defend the next president’s climate change agenda, and vow to fight any efforts to roll-back the meaningful progress we’ve made over the past eight years.”
A coalition of 25 states – 23 of them led by Republicans – filed legal challenges back in Oct. to stop President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which is basically a war on coal for generating power. The Supreme Court ordered in Feb. that implementation of the CPP be delayed until after the legal issues are resolved, likely sometime in 2017.
Supporting the Environmental Protection Agency and the Whitehouse are not enough, however.
“Our offices are seriously examining the potential of working together on high-impact, state-level initiatives, such as investigations into whether fossil fuel companies have misled investors about how climate change impacts their investments and business decisions,” said Schneiderman, who already has one notch on his belt after coal giant Peabody Energy reached an agreement with his office in Nov. in which it agreed to amend security commission filings to reflect greater financial risk caused by regulations of carbon dioxide emissions. There was “no admission or denial of wrongdoing and no financial penalty,” according to Peabody.
Stripped of political rhetoric – and there was plenty supplied by Gore – the bare-knuckled message from Schneiderman and his fellow AGs to the American oil and gas industry is, back off.
Get on board the climate change bandwagon. Stop funding anti-climate change organizations and their campaigns. Play ball with federal regulations.
The timing is no coincidence, either.
The Nov. 8 election is essentially a referendum on climate change, renewable energy, and fossil fuels. For the Dems, Hillary Clinton would continue Barack Obama’s agenda and Bernie Sanders would be an aggressive foe of fossil fuels. For the Republicans, Donald Trump is generally supportive of the energy industry, while Ted Cruz has committed to roll back every anti-fossil fuel regulation promulgated by the Obama Administration.
Exxon Mobil, the world’s biggest energy company and the fattest target for AGs, and already the target of the #Exxonknew campaign led by eco-activist Bill McKibben, is rolling the dice, no doubt hoping Trump or Cruz is elected president.
“The allegations are based on the false premise that ExxonMobil reached definitive conclusions about anthropogenic climate change before the world’s experts and before the science itself had matured, and then withheld it from the broader scientific community,” the company said in a statement made available to journalists.
“Such a claim is preposterous. It assumes that the expertise of a handful of Exxon scientists somehow exceeded the accumulated knowledge of the global scientific community at the time, and that the Exxon scientists somehow were able to reach definitive conclusions before the science had developed.”
Preposterous, indeed. And what a waste of time and resources.
Last year, power generation GHG emissions in the United States were their lowest in 27 years, according to the US Energy Information Administration.
Why? Because American utilities are closing coal power plants by the dozens and switching to cheap natural gas combined cycle technology. The EIA says 2016 will be the first year that natural gas is used more than coal to generate electricity. Not renewable energy – such as wind and solar, which make up only 0.6% and 4.7% respectively of 2015 US electricity generation – but natural gas, which has half the GHG emissions of coal. The EIA also forecasts the trend of natural gas replacing coal to continue.
That natural gas is produced by the very same companies the Democratic AGs plan to sue, which one could argue makes energy producers more of an ally for Schneiderman, Gore and company than an opponent. When the American Petroleum Institute starts lobbying for natural gas to replace coal in order to protect the climate, you have to think a rapprochement between the warring camps might be possible.
That might be the case in a sane world. Unfortunately, we’re trapped in the Bizarro world that is Campaign 2016, which means the Exxon Mobil et. al. witch hunt being called off are pretty much nil.
Expect more of these kinds of moves and counter moves as the Democrats and Republicans battle over the Oval Office. And expect prominent losers in this political war to be the environment and American voters.