This story was originally published by Grist. Cities in New Jersey and Puerto Rico assert that oil companies are behind a scheme to deceive the public. Here, you can subscribe to Grist’s weekly newsletter.
Three years ago, the flood-prone city of Hoboken, New Jersey, filed a lawsuit against Exxon, Chevron, and other oil companies in the hope of having them tried for deceiving the public. Like different claims put into high gear by “Exxon Knew” examinations, Hoboken put forth the defense that they penetrated state purchaser assurance regulations by concealing the dangers of consuming petroleum products.
However, the lawsuit recently took an unusual turn. As first reported by the accountability website ExxonKnews, Hoboken’s lawyers amended the complaint toward the end of April, claiming that Big Oil had broken the state’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO. New Jersey’s rule is designed according to a government RICO regulation passed in 1970 intended to bring down coordinated wrongdoing. These lawsuits against racketeering are no longer limited to the Mafia; They have also prevailed against pharmaceutical executives associated with the opioid epidemic and tobacco companies like Philip Morris.
Korey Silverman-Roati, a fellow at Columbia Law School, stated that it might signal the beginning of a new series of climate lawsuits. RICO laws exist in 33 states and two U.S. territories, and judgments in these cases can award triple the damages to plaintiffs. According to Silverman-Roati, the use of RICO is yet another indication that states and cities are attempting to learn from “the successes and failures of the tobacco litigation movement and the opioid litigation movement.”
Climate court cases are already proving to be very popular this year. In numerous cases brought by cities and states, the Supreme Court rejected petitions from Chevron, Shell, BP, and other businesses last month, allowing lawsuits that had been in limbo for years to proceed in state courts. The court also granted Hoboken’s case permission to proceed this week, possibly toward a jury trial. The city wants oil companies to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to upgrade the infrastructure in the area to withstand stronger storms, rising sea levels, and other climate change effects.
The second lawsuit filed by Hoboken alleges that Big Oil participated in a “fraudulent scheme” to conceal the ways in which their products contribute to climate change. In November, urban communities across Puerto Rico charged Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell, and other petroleum derivative organizations of abusing the government RICO regulation. The towns want businesses to pay billions of dollars for the extensive damage they sustained in 2017 from hurricanes Maria and Irma.
The two claims contend that proof of a connivance follows back to 1989, similarly as states all over the planet began looking at getting control over an Earth-wide temperature boost. In that year, ExxonMobil, Shell, and the American Petroleum Institute—the largest trade group in the industry—aided in the formation of the Global Climate Coalition, a group to oppose climate change. These businesses launched a robust public relations campaign that cast doubt on the science, despite the fact that they had privately acknowledged for decades the dangers posed by climate change. The industry was given a voice in global climate negotiations and reviewed international climate science reports as part of the corporate coalition’s lobbying efforts.
The American Petroleum Institute’s 1998 formation of a front group known as the “Global Climate Science Communications Team” is also mentioned in the most recent lawsuits. This is similar to the tobacco industry’s efforts to discredit the science that linked cigarette smoke to cancer. There was not a single scientist on the “science” team for the oil industry.) It had the expressed objective of getting a larger part of Americans to perceive “that critical vulnerabilities exist in environment science,” pronouncing that “triumph will be accomplished” when vulnerability turned out to be important for the “the standard way of thinking.”
“They’ve made it simple to demonstrate,” Melissa Sims, a lawyer at Milberg, the Tennessee-based law office addressing the Puerto Rican urban communities, told Grist recently, “in light of the fact that dissimilar to the wide range of various racketeering cases that have been on record, not even one of them incorporated a composed fight plan with a point by point division of work on how they planned to achieve their trickery.”
Oil companies respond by stating that courts are not the appropriate setting for addressing the major issue of climate change. A Chevron lawyer told Reuters that the suit Puerto Rico filed was “a baseless distraction from the serious challenge of global climate change, not an attempt to find an effective solution” after it was filed. These kinds of cases, according to an Exxon spokesperson, “waste millions of dollars of taxpayer money.”
In contrast, Hoboken asserts that the deception campaign that began forty years ago never ended. According to the complaint filed by the city, advertisements promoting clean energy projects undertaken by oil companies today “dupe consumers into believing that they are committed to addressing climate change.”
According to Silverman-Roati, the two RICO lawsuits draw attention to “this decades-long pattern of fossil fuel companies knowing that their products are harmful, deceptively marketing them to the public as safe, and then public communities being on the hook for huge sums to pay for those harms.” It’s actually an approach to underlining that design part of the way of behaving, the conspiratorial part of the way of behaving, and binds that to criminal infringement like misrepresentation.”
Source – njspotlightnews