New York Attorney General

As New York Takes Exxon to Court, Big Oil’s Strategy Against Climate Lawsuits Is Slowly Unveiled

Read time: 12 mins
Rex Tillerson

By Dan Zegart

Last week, in a historic first, the former CEO of a major oil company took the witness stand in a New York City courtroom and spent four hours defending his company against charges that it misled investors about the potential impact of global warming on its viability as a business.   

Rex Tillerson, who led ExxonMobil from 2006 until the end of 2016 when he became U.S. secretary of state, was grilled by an attorney for the New York State attorney general for allegedly participating in a “longstanding fraudulent scheme” by Exxon to fool investors. More specifically, the company is charged with exaggerating the stringency of its financial safeguards in pricing risks from regulations restricting greenhouse gas emissions, according to the complaint filed last year in New York state court.    

But Tillerson's appearance was just one of several recent watershed moments for efforts to hold the fossil fuel industry accountable for its dominant role in causing climate change.

Four States, Led by New York, Challenge Trump Admin Over Oil Train Safety Rule

Read time: 10 mins
Oil train cars burning near Mosier, Oregon

On October 23, New York Attorney General Letitia James, joined by attorneys general from Maryland, New Jersey, and California, sent a letter of support to the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) over a Washington state law that would limit the volatility of oil transported by train through the state.

That oil originates in the Bakken Shale in North Dakota and Montana, where trains help take the place of scarce pipelines in order to move fracked crude oil to Washington's refineries and ports along the coast. North Dakota and Montana have fought back against Washington's law, which was passed in May, and filed a petition to PHMSA in protest just two months later.

New Report Explains How to Debunk ExxonMobil's Denial, as Legal Cases Against It Proceed

Read time: 4 mins
ExxonKnew protesters

This is a guest post by ClimateDenierRoundup.

On last Thursday evening, Bloomberg reported that Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey is proceeding with the state’s case against ExxonMobil for “engaging in unfair or deceptive acts or practices” in its efforts to cast doubt on climate science.

ExxonMobil brass may be particularly annoyed by the notification that Massachusetts is moving forward. This Wednesday, the oil giant will appear in a New York court for that state’s case against it. As E&E explains in an (unpaywalled) story, the New York case revolves around the company’s use of two sets of “proxy costs” to gauge how much of a hit the company would take from climate policies.

Peabody Energy Investigation in Late Stages: New York Attorney General Probe

Read time: 8 mins
Powder River Basin coal

This is a guest post by Dan Zegart, crossposted from Climate Investigations Center.

Update: Peabody Energy announced today that it has reached a settlement with the New York Attorney General's office regarding its climate change disclosures to investors on the financial risks of its business.

A probe by the New York state attorney general of Peabody Energy for allegedly not warning investors about climate change-related financial risks is close to being settled, according to sources close to the investigation.

The news accompanied the announcement on November 6th by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman of his investigation of ExxonMobil, which apparently will zero in on the contradiction between the company's own scientific research confirming the hazards of global warming and its subsequent funding of climate denial to protect its profits.

Schneiderman, who had been under increasing pressure to investigate energy companies for allegedly covering up the hazards of fossil fuel use, issued an 18-page subpoena for a wide assortment of records from ExxonMobil dating back to January 1, 1977. The company must respond by December 4th.

The attorney general's office also confirmed that the probe of Peabody Energy, the country's largest coal producer, originally launched in 2007 under then-Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, was renewed in  2013 with fresh demands for information from the company.

A source familiar with the investigation said a settlement may be forthcoming “very soon.”

New York AG Subpoenas ExxonMobil, Investigating Peabody Coal for Climate Denial

Read time: 4 mins
ExxonKnew

In a blockbuster story, The New York Times reported that New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has subpoenaed oil and gas industry giant ExxonMobil to “determine whether the company lied to the public about the risks of climate change or to investors about how those risks might hurt the oil business.”

ExxonMobil, now also the subject of U.S. congressional and activist group calls for a U.S. Department of Justice investigation, knew about the risks of climate change since the 1970s and studied those risks internally for decades.

But the company subsequently funded climate change denial and disinformation efforts to the tune of at least $31 million.

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