Senator says Exxon broke the law by lying about climate science

Senator Raymond Lesniak today joined with the New Jersey Sierra Club, Clean Water Action, Conservation Law Foundation, The NY/NJ Baykeeper, New Jersey Environmental Lobby, Hackensack River Keeper, Environment New Jersey, Clean Water Action, Delaware Riverkeeper Network and the global environmental movement in urging the state attorney general to investigate ExxonMobil Corporation for deceptive statements and practices about the oil giant’s role in contributing to climate change.

The investigation would seek to determine if Exxon made deceptive presentations or withheld relevant information from the company’s shareholders and the public about the environmental damage caused by its products and practices.

As a coastal state, New Jersey is especially vulnerable to the negative impact of climate change, Lesniak noted.

“I stand with New Jersey and national environmental organizations asking Acting Attorney General Robert Lougy to join with the Attorneys General of New York and California to investigate what Exxon knew about the harmful impact of its refinery and retail operations and to take whatever actions are available to recover civil damages and to prosecute criminal liability,” said Lesniak. “I also call on the New Jersey Pension Funds to follow the lead of the Rockefeller Family Fund and divest from fossil fuels as quickly as possible and eliminate holdings of Exxon.”  

As early as the late 1960s, Exxon’s researchers produced reports and findings consistent with the scientific community’s near-universal findings that climate change is real and that the fossil fuels produced by oil companies were contributing to worsening the problem. Then, toward the end of the century, Exxon changed course and started to fund and support organizations committed to the denial of climate change.

The “research” and opinions by these groups have been used as excuses to not take the actions needed to prevent the damaging impact on the environment and public health of irreversible changes to global climate.

“Unfortunately, the Earth can’t sue Exxon for the damage it is doing to Mother Nature,” said Lesniak. “Neither can the more than seven billion humans who inhabit the Earth, but that does not mean we have no recourse to make Exxon pay for withholding significant information to its shareholders and the public and for funding junk science to contradict the findings of its own scientists.

“ExxonMobil’s deceit has had terrible consequences — for consumers, for scientists, and for vulnerable New Jersey communities that must host the company’s facilities, said Brad Campbell, president of the Conservation Law Foundation and former NJDEP Commissioner.  “Acting Attorney General Lougy owes the public a full investigation.”

“Since Standard Oil of New Jersey was one of Exxon’s most important ancestors, it would make great historical sense for the state to join New York and California in this effort,” said Bill McKibben, author and leader of the national environmental group

“If Exxon is willing to mislead its own bond-holders and investors, how truthful have they been with governmental agencies? We believe that the Attorney General must investigate Exxon for its financial practices and deliberate misinformation. If they lied about climate change, what about cleaning up the sites that they own in New Jersey? We’re concerned about the Governor’s connections to Exxon. This is why we need an independent investigation to see what’s really going on,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. 

“Exxon has a long history of environmental damage that has polluted our water, air and soils in New Jersey communities. The outsized climate damage they have done to the nation and the planet through their unbridled development of fossil fuels has brought the corporation huge profits at the expense of everyone else, including future generations. But Exxon will never be made accountable without a state attorney general probe,” said Tracy Carluccio, Deputy Director, Delaware Riverkeeper Network.

“Exxon has a long and troubled history in New Jersey.  The Acting Attorney General should join with California and New York to investigate whether they broke the law by lying to investors and the public about their role in contributing to climate change,” said Debbie Mans, Executive Director, NY/NJ Baykeeper.

“According to the 2016 Analyst Meeting Presentation, Exxon’s Shareholder distributions were $15.1 billion in 2015. The company negotiated a $225 million settlement, for $8.9 billion in damages to the state’s wetlands and marshes. I would not be surprised to find out Exxon was willing to disregard the entire planet in order to maximize profits,” said Noemi de la Puente, Executive Director, NJEL.

“What an ironic twist it is that Exxon’s greed to boost dirty profits at any cost, including climate distraction, will be prosecuted because Exxon broke the law by lying to shareholders about climate science even though the same lies to the public while morally bankrupt were legally permitted,” said David Pringle, of Clean Water Action.


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