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Attorney General William Tong

09/14/2020

Connecticut Sues Exxon For Decades of Deceit Regarding Climate Change

(Hartford, CT) – Attorney General William Tong today sued ExxonMobil under the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act, alleging an ongoing, systematic campaign of lies and deception to hide from the public what ExxonMobil has known for decades—that burning fossil fuels undeniably contributes to climate change.

“ExxonMobil sold oil and gas, but it also sold lies about climate science. ExxonMobil knew that continuing to burn fossil fuels would have a significant impact on the environment, public health and our economy. Yet it chose to deceive the public. No more,” said Attorney General Tong. “ExxonMobil made billions of dollars during its decades-long campaign of deception that continues today. Connecticut’s citizens should not have to bear the expense of fortifying our infrastructure to adapt to the very real consequences of climate change. Our case is simple and strong, and we will hold ExxonMobil accountable.”

“Connecticut communities have seen very real damage from climate change,” said Michelle Seagull, Commissioner for the Department of Consumer Protection, “but for decades ExxonMobil has misled the public by downplaying the harmful effects of the fossil fuels they sold.”

“This misinformation campaign by the fossil fuel companies misled the public and stymied policy that cost us decades of inaction,” DEEP Commissioner Katie Dykes said. “Because of these delays, Connecticut is already experiencing the very real, and very costly, impacts of man-made climate change. This suit seeks to hold companies accountable for their actions and seeks their just remediation for the damages caused and the challenges that continue to compound into the future. Fortunately, we know what we need to do going forward. We need to decarbonize our electric sector and make affordable, clean, renewable energy available to all, and the Lamont administration is working hard to achieve those goals.”

The lawsuit is built on solid evidence that contrasts internal company memos and research with false and deceptive public messages that continue today. Records show Exxon knew burning fossil fuels contributed to global warming as early as the 1950s. The company conducted its own research in the 1970s and 1980s confirming that atmospheric CO2 expelled in the exploration, refining and combustion of the fossil fuel products it sold contributed to climate change and that climate change could have catastrophic effects on humanity. Armed with that critical information, Exxon had the unique ability to disclose its research and help find a sustainable energy solution. Instead, beginning in the 1980s and continuing today, the company hid its research and launched a widespread campaign of deception through advertising, skewed research papers, public speeches, books, and presentations. This deception continues today in “greenwashed” ads that falsely portray the company as meaningfully working to combat climate change.

The lawsuit draws heavily from Exxon’s and Mobil’s own historical internal memos, which plainly convey the companies’ firm understanding of the connection between fossil fuel consumption and climate change, and the impacts of climate change to our environment, economy and public health.

Click here to download a sample of key documents cited in the complaint.

Because of this deception, Connecticut lost out on decades of opportunities to prepare for and mitigate climate change, which is now causing sea level rise, flooding, drought, increased temperatures, decreased air quality, and more frequent severe storms—all with devastating consequences for public health, the environment, and our economy. Even if the Earth stays at its current rate of warming, the State of Connecticut and its citizens will have to expend billions of dollars to adapt to the consequences of global warming.

The lawsuit seeks relief in the form of remediation for past, present and future harm from climate change, restitution for investments already made due to climate change, disgorgement of corporate profits, civil penalties, disclosure of all climate research, establishment of a third-party controlled education fund and an immediate end to the false and misleading information that ExxonMobil has been disseminating for years.

The Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act has no statute of limitations, allowing the Office of the Attorney General to examine all of ExxonMobil’s deceptions dating back decades.

Special Assistant Attorney General Ben Cheney, Assistant Attorney General Dan Salton, Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Harding, Administrative Assistant Sonda Thomas, Secretary Heidi Melendez, and Assistant Attorney General Matthew Levine, Head of the Environment Department are assisting the Attorney General in this matter.
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Media Contact:

Elizabeth Benton
elizabeth.benton@ct.gov

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