Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison filed a lawsuit Wednesday accusing ExxonMobil and other oil-and-gas entities of deceiving consumers about climate change, six months after New York suffered a major defeat with its climate-fraud litigation.
The consumer-protection lawsuit, which also named the American Petroleum Institute and Koch Industries, seeks what could be billions in damages to “help Minnesota pay for the devastating consequences of climate change,” as well as funding for a “corrective public education campaign on the issue of climate change.”
“We’re here suing these defendants — API, ExxonMobil and Koch — for hiding the truth, for confusing the facts and muddling the waters to devastating effect,” Mr. Ellison said in a news conference. “These defendants knowingly directed, conducted and funded a campaign to deceive and defraud Minnesotans and Americans about the facts.”
Filed in Ramsey County District Court, the lawsuit comes with Democratic attorneys general in Massachusetts and Rhode Island also seeking to hold oil-and-gas companies responsible for allegedly covering up the impact of carbon-dioxide emissions on the climate, which the industry has denied.
In December, New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood lost a climate-fraud case against ExxonMobil four years in the making when a state judge called the allegations “without merit,” finding that she failed to show that the company “made any material misstatements or omissions about its practices and procedures that misled any reasonable investor.”
In a statement, ExxonMobil spokesman Casey Norton called Mr. Ellison’s claims “baseless and without merit,” describing the lawsuit as “part of a coordinated, politically motivated campaign against energy companies.”
“Legal proceedings like this waste millions of dollars of taxpayer money and do nothing to advance meaningful actions that reduce the risks of climate change,” said Mr. Norton. “ExxonMobil will continue to invest in efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while meeting society’s growing demand for energy.”
He cited a ruling earlier this month by a Texas court criticizing such climate lawsuits as “lawfare,” referring to a filing by a half-dozen California counties and municipalities seeking climate damages from ExxonMobil.
The Texas justices slammed the lawsuit as “an ugly tool by which to seek the environmental policy changes the California parties desire, enlisting the judiciary to do the work that the other two branches of government cannot or will not do,” according to Law.com.
The Minnesota lawsuit alleged that the oil-and-gas entities violated state laws on consumer fraud, deceptive trade practices and false advertising, which the Democrat Ellison referred to as “climate deception.”
“They deceived Minnesotans about the dominant role of fossil fuels in causing climate change in an effort to keep their profits flowing, no matter who it may harm,” said Mr. Ellison.
Backing the lawsuit were a host of climate groups, including MN350, the Minnesota Youth Climate Strike, and Honor the Earth.
Mr. Ellison also received a helping hand from Democratic billionaire Michael Bloomberg. Two of the four attorneys listed on the complaint were special assistant attorneys general provided by the Bloomberg-funded State Impact Center at the New York University School of Law, which provides privately funded lawyers to state prosecutors to pursue climate litigation.
The New York and Massachusetts lawsuits also included contributions from Bloomberg-funded special assistant AGs, according to Climate Litigation Watch, which has challenged the use of state prosecutors paid by private organizations.
“This became quite an issue in the New York AG’s disastrous suit,” said Climate Litigation Watch in a Wednesday post.