New Jersey on Tuesday sued five oil and gas companies, including Shell, on accusations of misleading the public over fossil fuel's role in climate change. FIle Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI | License Photo
Oct. 19 (UPI) -- New Jersey is suing five oil and gas companies and a related trade association on accusations of lying to the public for decades over the relationship between the burning of fossil fuels and climate change.
The state's attorney general Matthew Platkin announced the lawsuit Tuesday, saying they are suing Exxon Mobil, Shell Oil, Chevron, BP, ConocoPhillips and the American Petroleum Institute for civil monetary penalties and damages including natural resource damages, such as the loss of wetlands.
The lawsuit says New Jersey taxpayers have been and will continue to be burdened with billions of dollars in expenses needed to protect their communities from rising sea levels, deadly storms and other climate-related harms that should be borne by the defendants, whom Platkin accuses of running a public relations campaign to sow doubts about climate change despite knowing for decades that fossil fuels were a major cause.
"They went to great lengths to hide the truth and mislead the people of New Jersey, and the world," Platkin said Tuesday in a statement. "In short, these companies put their profits ahead of our safety. It's long over due that the facts be aired in a New Jersey court, and the perpetrators of the disinformation campaign pay for the harms they've caused."
The lawsuit states that the fossil fuel industry has known since at least the 1950s that fossil fuels produce carbon dioxide and other green houses gases that "can have catastrophic consequences for the planet and its people."
"Armed with that knowledge, Defendants took steps to protect their own assets from climate harms and risks through immense internal investment in research, infrastructure improvements and plans to exploit new business opportunities in a warming world," the lawsuit reads.
Instead of warning the public or truthfully representing what they knew about the consequences of the use of their products, the companies "aggressively" promoted the use of their fossil fuels while having "concealed and misrepresented" their dangers and disseminated false and misleading information about the existence, causes and effect of climate change.
Shawn LaTourette, New Jersey's commissioner of Environmental Protection, described his state as "ground zero" for some of the worst impacts of climate change as its communities are continually recovering from extreme heat and devastating storms and floods.
"These conditions will sadly only worsen in the decades ahead, leaving us scrambling to prepare for a parade of harmful climate changes," LaTourette said. "All this while we rush to ween ourselves off the very products these companies have long known would fuel our pain but deceived New Jerseyans about, because keeping us addicted was better for their bottom line.
"It was was wrong to mislead us, wrong to undermine climate science, wrong to put profit over people and the planet that we share," he said. "It is time New Jersey demands accountability."
Scott Lauermann, a spokesman for the American Petroleum Institute, responded to the lawsuit with a statement championing the industry's efforts to reduce emissions and protect the environment.
"The record of the past two decades demonstrates that the industry has achieved its goal of providing affordable, reliable American energy to U.S. consumers while substantially reducing emissions and our environmental footprint," he said.
Exxon Mobil told The Hill in a statement that the litigation will waste millions of taxpayer dollars while doing nothing to reduce the risks of climate change.
"Exxon Mobil will continue to invest in efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while meeting society's growing demand for energy," it said.