Attorney General Karl A. Racine
Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia
Exxon Mobil/BP/Chevron/Shell Lawsuit Press Call
June 25, 2020
Good morning everyone. Thank for convening.
I also want to publicly recognize the leadership and strong efforts of Kate Konopka and her team in the Public Advocacy Division of the Office of the Attorney General, who have investigated, and indeed, filed the complaint in this matter.
My office has organized this call to announce the lawsuit against four of the world’s largest oil and gas companies—Exxon Mobil, BP, Chevron, and Shell—for knowingly concealing the role their products play in causing climate change harm.
We bring this suit under the District’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act, which is a broad statute that prohibits businesses from engaging in deceptive trade practices and misleading D.C. consumers.
An OAG investigation revealed that over more than a half a century, these four companies have engaged in a complex, multi-million-dollar public relations campaign to undermine the growing body of scientific research demonstrating that climate change is man-made.
Drawing inspiration from Big Tobacco, the companies financed and employed industry associations and front groups to distort and conceal the dangers their fossil fuel products represented.
They hired a well-known fake grassroots group—the Advancement of Sound Science Coalition—used in the tobacco industry’s disinformation campaign to manufacture public opposition to climate researchers and activists.
And they hired some of the same scientists who falsely disputed the connection between tobacco use and cancer to do the same for fossil fuels and climate change.
As early as the 1950s these four companies knew carbon emissions created by burning fossil fuels would, in due time, pose an existential threat to humanity.
These findings guided the companies as they privately made investments to protect their fossil fuel infrastructure from the effects of rising global temperatures.
Publicly, however, they worked systematically and intentionally to generate doubt that climate change is man-made.
They generated media coverage overhyping bogus research disputing the scientific consensus.
They published “advertorials”—advertisements masquerading as editorials—in major publications including The Washington Post and The New York Times, falsely arguing research did not prove that burning fossil fuels destabilized the planet’s natural cycles.
And when, decades later, public awareness made the companies’ continued denial less effective, the companies pivoted their spin machine to “greenwashing.”
In advertisements across newspapers, online, and in the District’s metro system, Exxon Mobil, BP, Chevron, and Shell all exaggerate their commitment to green, renewable energy sources.
These ads obscure the fact that none of these companies invests more than 2.3 percent of capital expenditures in renewables—and that BP, Exxon Mobil, and Shell are planning to expand fossil fuel production by 20 to 35 percent through 2030.
And now that the companies are seeking to sell more natural gas, they market it as “safe,” “clean,” and “emissions reducing.”
The fact of the matter is that no fossil fuel product is “safe,” nor “clean.” It all creates carbon emissions, and it all represents a threat to consumers.
Today, scientists calculate that the world has less than a decade left to get carbon emissions under control—or face catastrophic impacts.
The District of Columbia, sitting between two rivers that are rising, is at particular risk.
The Tidal Basin now floods around 30 times a year—a fivefold increase from a few decades ago.
And as our already-hot and muggy summers grow more punishing, our residents—especially District seniors and other vulnerable residents—will be exposed to heat illness.
These companies were not simply irresponsible in their reckless pursuit of profit.
Their deceptive advertisements and misleading claims violate the D.C. consumer protection law.
We are bringing this lawsuit to end these disinformation campaigns and to win relief for District consumers.
Now, I’m happy to take your questions. As I indicated at the outset, Kate Konopka is also available to answer any question that you might have that I cannot answer.