- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 17, 2016

An environmental group with ties to a broad coalition against Exxon Mobil Corp. announced Tuesday that it plans to sue the company for “climate deceit,” the latest effort to use the legal system to punish dissenters of climate change.

Bradley Campbell, president of the Conservation Law Foundation, said the Boston-based organization had filed a notice of intent to sue within 90 days in federal court in what would be the first action of its kind stemming from accusations that the company chose to disregard its own research.

He cited a September report in InsideClimate News — “Exxon: The Road Not Taken” — as evidence that the company knew that emissions from its fossil fuel products would “lead to catastrophic consequences for the environment and for civilization.”

“And yet even as Exxon Mobil and its scientists came to that conclusion in the Nixon administration, they spent hundreds of millions of dollars up to and through the Obama administration to persuade the public of exactly the opposite, that the link between man’s emissions of greenhouse gases and climate change was uncertain, that the science was debatable,” Mr. Campbell said.

Exxon Mobil spokesman Alan T. Jeffers blasted the foundation’s action as part of a “well-publicized coordinated assault on Exxon Mobil’s reputation that is underpinned by deliberately inaccurate reporting on our nearly 40 years of publicly conducted climate research.”

Mr. Campbell was among those who attended a Jan. 8 meeting on discrediting Exxon sponsored by the Rockefeller Family Fund. Among the goals was “to establish in the public’s mind that Exxon is a corrupt institution that has pushed humanity (and all creation) toward climate chaos and grave harm,” according to a draft agenda obtained by The Washington Free Beacon.

In addition, the Conservation Law Foundation has received money from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, which also gives financial support to InsideClimate News. The Columbia Journalism School’s Energy and Environment Fellowship Project, which has also accepted Rockefeller funding, published a similar report on Exxon in October.

In attendance at the Tuesday press conference in Everett, Washington, was InsideClimate News reporter/editor Jack Cushman. Mr. Campbell said the foundation was “honored to have [him] with us.”

The reports accused Exxon of ignoring the research of some company scientists who warned of a catastrophic warming trend.

“For years, Exxon Mobil scientists and its internal business planners acknowledged and recognized that carbon-dioxide emissions, greenhouse gas were going to lead to catastrophic impacts on our environment and communities, and yet they told the public exactly the opposite,” Mr. Campbell said.

Even within Exxon, however, at least two top scientists ultimately became “vocal climate contrarians” starting in the 1990s, according to the InsideClimate News series.

“To suggest that we had reached definitive conclusions, decades before the world’s experts and while climate science was in an early stage of development, is not credible,” Mr. Jeffers said in a statement.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change holds that human activity is “extremely likely” to have caused global warming, a view known as the “consensus,” but skeptics abound.

They include professors and researchers at top U.S. research facilities who dispute the contention that human activity is the major source of climate change and that rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere will inevitably lead to catastrophic events such as hurricanes.

A coalition of 17 attorneys general announced March 29 that they would pursue accusations of “fraud” against Exxon for challenging the consensus.

At least two attorneys general have subpoenaed Exxon for documents related to its climate change research and advocacy, prompting critics to accuse the officials of engaging in ideologically motivated assaults on free speech.

After the series appeared in InsideClimate News, the Conservation Law Foundation undertook an investigation into Exxon’s terminal in Everett, which showed that “the corporation’s deceit spilled onto New England soil,” according to a foundation statement.

In its notice, the foundation says it plans to sue Exxon for violations of the Clean Water Act at the Everett facility, such as discharges of “toxic and hazardous waste,” and for failing to integrate “climate change information, including information known to Exxon Mobil,” into its Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure Plan.

Mr. Jeffers said operations at the Everett terminal “comply with federal and state government environmental standards, including monitoring and treatment of ground water.”

He also said the Conservation Law Foundation’s proposed lawsuit is unlikely to be the final legal volley in the climate change debate.

“I think it’s safe to say this is a broad-based coordinated effort, and I’m not surprised that it’s going to come at us in a variety of ways,” Mr. Jeffers said.

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