Attorney General William Tong announced he was suing under the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act - which has no statute of limitations - alleging an “ongoing, systematic campaign of lies and deception to hide from the public what ExxonMobil has known for decades—that burning fossil fuels undeniably contributes to climate change.”
Prosecutors allege that Exxon has knowingly burned fossil fuels that have contributed to global warming since the early 1950s, despite conducting its own research in the 1970s and 1980s that confirmed the threat of climate change.
Tong said that “armed with that critical information, Exxon had the unique ability to disclose its research and help find a sustainable energy solution.”
It is alleged that instead of disclosing the information, beginning in the 1980s and continuing today, the company hid its research and launched a “widespread campaign of deception through advertising, skewed research papers, public speeches, books, and presentations.”
“ExxonMobil sold oil and gas, but it also sold lies about climate science,” Tong said. “ExxonMobil knew that continuing to burn fossil fuels would have a significant impact on the environment, public health, and our economy, yet it chose to deceive the public.
Tong said that the deception continues today in “greenwashed ads” that he says falsely portray the company as meaningly working to combat climate change.
“ExxonMobil made billions of dollars during its decades-long campaign of deception that continues today,” Tong added. “Connecticut’s citizens should not have to bear the expense of fortifying our infrastructure to adapt to the very real consequences of climate change.
“Our case is simple and strong, and we will hold ExxonMobil accountable.”
Prosecutors said that the lawsuit will draw from Exxon and Mobil’s own internal memos which they say shows that the companies had a firm understanding of the connection between fossil fuel consumption and climate change, and the impact it could have on the planet’s climate.
“Connecticut communities have seen very real damage from climate change,” Michelle Seagull, Commissioner for the Department of Consumer Protection, said. “But for decades ExxonMobil has misled the public by downplaying the harmful effects of the fossil fuels they sold.”
The lawsuit alleges that Connecticut lost out on decades of opportunities to prepare for and mitigate climate change, which has caused a rise in the sea level, flooding, droughts, increased temperatures, decreased air quality, and more frequent severe storms.
According to Tong, “even if the Earth stays at its current rate of warming, the State of Connecticut and its citizens will have to expend billions of dollars to adapt to the consequences of global warming.”
The lawsuit seeks financial payments for past, present, and future harm from climate change, restitution for investments already made due to climate change, disgorgement of corporate profits, civil penalties, disclosure of all climate research, the establishment of a third-party controlled education fund, and an immediate end to the purported false and misleading information that ExxonMobil has disseminated.
“This misinformation campaign by the fossil fuel companies misled the public and stymied policy that cost us decades of inaction,” DEEP Commissioner Katie Dykes said. “Because of these delays, Connecticut is already experiencing the very real, and very costly, impacts of man-made climate change.
“This suit seeks to hold companies accountable for their actions and seeks their just remediation for the damages caused and the challenges that continue to compound into the future,” she added.
“Fortunately, we know what we need to do going forward. We need to decarbonize our electric sector and make affordable, clean, renewable energy available to all, and the Lamont administration is working hard to achieve those goals.”
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