In late June, Attorney General Keith Ellison acted in Minnesota’s tradition of guarding the public interest when he filed a consumer protection lawsuit against three of the nation’s largest fossil fuel entities — ExxonMobil, Koch Industries, and the American Petroleum Institute (API). In the lawsuit, he seeks to recover civil penalties and restitution for the harm to Minnesotans caused by these companies’ decades-long efforts to intentionally mislead the public about the relationship between fossil fuels, the climate crisis, and the resulting harm to public health, agriculture, infrastructure, and the environment.
Described ‘potentially catastrophic’ impact
The recent disclosure of thousands of internal corporate documents makes clear that ExxonMobil, Koch, API, and other large oil and gas companies have known for decades that the greenhouse gas emissions from their products would have what one internal Exxon document described as a “potentially catastrophic” impact on the climate. But rather than risk their profits, fossil fuel companies followed the playbook first created by the tobacco industry and intentionally deceived consumers, regulators, media, policymakers, and the general public about climate science.
Exxon, the world’s largest oil company, Koch Industries, the largest oil refiner in Minnesota, and API, the largest oil and gas trade association, worked tirelessly to fund and support misleading ads, high-paid lobbyists, think tanks, industry-funded scientists, and more in order to confuse the public and block federal attempts to regulate emissions from the fossil fuels that made their fortune. There is also evidence that these companies even encouraged a public “addiction” to oil and created hostility toward alternative, cleaner fuels, reminiscent of the tobacco companies’ efforts to increase individuals’ nicotine intake despite their ability to lower nicotine content.
Minnesotans are paying dearly for the oil companies’ actions. Record-breaking floods, extreme temperatures, and damaging storms have all become more common and severe. This changing climate poses myriad threats to our economy, food systems, vital infrastructure, and public health. And increased air pollution associated with fossil fuels has been linked to higher rates of asthma, cancer, and deaths caused by COVID-19.
As Minnesota and the nation work to confront the racism ingrained in our society and public policies, we must also recognize that the impacts of climate change often fall hardest on Black and Indigenous communities.
Adapting is very expensive for…
Read More: Ellison extends a proud history: Holding ExxonMobil and Koch accountable