September 11, 2020

By Ramona du Houx

The Delaware attorney general announced on September 8, 2020 that he was suing 31 fossil fuel companies, including Exxon, Chevron and BP, accusing them of deceiving the public about the role their products play in causing climate change and damaging the state’s environment. When sea level rises Delaware, being a flat coastal state, will suffer flooding and land loss. The state already struggles after every extreme storm. system comes through the region.

Delaware joins a growing list of cities and states that have filed lawsuits against the oil industry including Exxon, Chevron BP and others. Washington, D.C., Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Minnesota have each filed similar suits.

The lawsuit announced by Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin was the first state, in July of 2018, seeking to hold oil companies responsible for costs associated with climate change and followed similar cases by several local governments nationally.

The lawsuit alleged that various oil companies had created a public nuisance in the state and failed to adequately warn customers, consumers and regulators about the risks posed by their products.

“For a very long time, there has been this perception that ‘Big Oil’ was too big to take on, but here we are – the smallest state – taking on some of the biggest corporate polluters in the world,” said Kilmartin in a statement.

The 2019 Massachusetts lawsuit against ExxonMobil put it this way: “Collectively, as with its historic and ongoing deception campaigns about the science, the objective of ExxonMobil’s efforts is to preserve the company’s short-term profits in a carbon-dominated world economy no matter the dire long-term consequences for the company’s investors or for the consumers who buy its products,” the 211-page complaint states.

In June of 2020, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison sued Exxon Mobil, Koch Industries, and the American Petroleum Institute over what he calls “a campaign of deception” about climate change that the companies “orchestrated and executed with disturbing success.”

Ellison and his office say internal documents show the oil and gas companies knew the damage that fossil fuels would cause as far back as the 1970s and ’80s, yet hid that science and instead launched public relations campaigns denying climate change.

The June 2020 Washington D.C. lawsuit, filed in D.C. Superior Court, alleged that the fossil fuel companies have known about the adverse environmental effects of their products since the 1950s. It seeks a court order for the companies to pay civil penalties, provide financial relief for consumers in the District and stop deceptive campaigns.

The Delaware complaint filed says the companies have known for more than 50 years that pollution caused by their products would adversely impact the Earth’s climate and sea level. It seeks compensation for current and future damages and penalties of $10,000 for every instance in which the defendants violated the Consumer Fraud Act since the mid-20th century.