Gore, state AGs beef up ‘fraud’ probe

Source: Robin Bravender, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, March 30, 2016

NEW YORK — Former Vice President Al Gore and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman today accused fossil fuel companies of committing fraud by lying about climate change science while they announced a multistate effort to hold companies accountable.

Schneiderman (D) convened a coalition of state attorneys general here today, where they announced a multistate effort to tackle climate change, including further investigations into whether fossil fuel companies lied to investors and the public about the impacts of climate change.

“Today in the face of the gridlock in Washington, we are assembling a group of state actors,” Schneiderman said. He called it an “unprecedented” multistate effort “dedicated to coming up with creative ways to enforce the laws being flouted by the fossil fuel industry and their allies in their short-sighted efforts to put profits above the interests of the American people.”

He was joined by Gore; the attorneys general from Vermont, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Virginia and the U.S. Virgin Islands; and staff from the attorney general offices in California, Delaware, Washington, D.C., Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington.

Schneiderman is investigating whether Exxon Mobil Corp. lied to the public or to investors about the risks of climate science. His office is reportedly probing the company’s actions dating back to the 1970s, including alleged efforts to fund groups that sought to undermine climate science (E&ENews PM, Nov. 5, 2015).

The top lawyers from Massachusetts and the Virgin Islands will also be working on investigations into fossil fuel companies, Schneiderman said. “I’m not sure where everyone is,” he said, but noted that states were looking to cooperate to the extent they can.

“One thing we hope all reasonable people can agree on is that every fossil fuel company has a responsibility to be honest with its investors and with the public about the financial and market risks posed by climate change,” Schneiderman said today.

He said, “We are pursing this as we would any other fraud matter; you have to tell the truth.” He said everyone in Washington, D.C., “from President Obama on down is under a relentless assault from well-funded, highly aggressive and morally vacant forces that are trying to block every step by the federal government to take meaningful action.”

Gore lauded the states’ efforts, saying, “I really believe that years from now, this convening … may well be looked back upon as a real turning point in the effort to hold to account those commercial interests that have been — according to the best available evidence — deceiving the American people, communicating in a fraudulent way.”

A coalition of environmental and other liberal groups, meanwhile, announced the launch of a website calling for beefed-up investigations into Exxon’s past knowledge about climate change.

The groups include 350.org, the Center for International Environmental Law, Climate Hawks Vote and others. According to the groups, more than 500,000 people have signed on to petitions calling for an investigation into Exxon Mobil’s climate knowledge.

“The Exxon revelations may turn out to be the largest corporate scandal in history,” said 350.org Executive Director May Boeve in a statement. “We’ll be looking for the Department of Justice and many more state attorneys general to follow New York’s lead and launch their own investigations.”

Exxon Mobil has maintained that the company has included information about the business risk of climate change for many years in reports to shareholders and has firmly rejected allegations that it suppressed climate change research.