Climate Change Lawsuit: Minnesota Attorney General Sues ExxonMobil, Koch Industries, and API
Jul 01, 2020
Exxon Mobil, Koch Industries, and the American Petroleum Institute (API) have been made defendants in a June 2020 lawsuit filed by Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison seeking climate change damages based upon violations of Minnesota consumer fraud and deceptive trade laws, as well as its false advertising statutes in addition to common law fraud, misrepresentation, and negligence.
- Read the pleading online as provided by the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office, styled State of Minnesota, by its Attorney General, Keith Ellison, Plaintiff, vs. American Petroleum Institute, Exxon Mobil Corporation, ExxonMobil Oil Corporation, Koch Industries, Inc., Flint Hills Resources LP, and Flint Hills Resources Pine Bend (“Complaint”).
Defendants: Fossil Fuel Corporations and Industry Lobbyist
Filed on June 24, 2020, the State of Minnesota is seeking significant compensation from not only two of the largest fossil fuel corporations in the world (ExxonMobil and Koch Industries) but also the largest lobbying group for the fossil fuel industry, the American Petroleum Institute. (The two Flint Hills defendants are subsidiaries of Koch Industries; for details, see Complaint, pages 11-13.)
Causes of Action Asserted by Minnesota
This climate change lawsuit seeks damages based upon allegations that the defendants violated a variety of Minnesota consumer protection laws in a “campaign of deception.”
Specifically, Minnesota asserts:
- Violation of the Minnesota Consumer Fraud Act (Complaint, page 73);
- Failure To Warn – Strict and Negligent Liability (against all defendants except API)(Complaint, page 74);
- Fraud and Misrepresentation (Complaint, page 77);
- Violation of the Minnesota Deceptive Trade Practices Act (Complaint, page 78); and
- Violation of the Minnesota False Statement in Advertising Act (Complaint, page 81).
Damages Sought in Minnesota Climate Change Lawsuit
The State of Minnesota seeks various forms of justice in its complaint, including injunctive relief, disclosure of research, and an order for the defendants to fund a corrective state public education campaign. (See Complaint, pages 82-84.)
Monetarily, an award is sought for maximum civil penalties pursuant to the alleged statutory violations as well as for restitution pursuant both statute and common law. Minnesota also asks for an order forcing ExxonMobil and Koch to disgorge all profits made as a result of their unlawful conduct, as well as reimbursement for the state’s costs and legal fees.
Factual Allegations in Minnesota Complaint: “Campaign of Deception”
The Minnesota Complaint is detailed in its factual allegations supporting its stated causes of action. Almost seventy (70) pages of the pleading delve into specific circumstances that work together to support Minnesota’s claims for relief due to climate change harm.
These were addressed in detail during Attorney General Ellison’s press conference and news release announcing the filing of this latest climate change lawsuit. From AG Ellison (click on the links below to view and read the documents referenced as deceptive):
“The complaint describes how these companies strategized to deceive the public about climate-change science in order to safeguard their business interests. It was uncovered only starting in 2015 that internal experts in the field of climate change at these companies were issuing warnings to company leaders about what was coming. But rather than warn the public, as was the companies’ duty, the complaint details a multi-pronged campaign of deception that the companies and API conducted over the past 30 years.
"During this same period, ExxonMobil and Koch earned hundreds of billions of dollars in profits while Minnesota shouldered the costs and consequences of unmitigated climate change.
"Two images released in the complaint today illustrate the campaign of deception. One is a document from Exxon Engineering, labeled “Proprietary Information,” dated October 19, 1979. It clearly asserts the reality of climate change and acknowledges that the cause is “due to fossil fuel consumption.” The other image is of print advertisements from the Information Council for the Environment, an industry front group dedicated to denying the science of climate change. The ads compare predictions of climate change to “Chicken Little” and assert that “they may not be true” — despite the defendants’ knowledge that the predictions were true.”
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