Environmentalists file first civil suit against Exxon over climate fraud

By JOHN SICILIANO  9/29/16 4:15 PM

Environmentalists filed the first civil lawsuit against Exxon Mobil Thursday for not properly accounting for climate change in maintaining oil storage facilities along the Mystic River in Massachusetts.

The lawsuit is meant to build on a series of high-profile probes initiated this year by Democratic attorneys general in New York and Massachusetts, according to the Conservation Law Foundation.

The foundation said Thursday that it started its own investigation after seeing the Democratic AGs take action following news reports by the Los Angeles Times and InsideClimate News that Exxon covered up studies by its own scientists that showed climate change would harm its business.

The foundation's investigation "focused on how this climate deceit has affected New England communities," it said. "Our investigation revealed that, despite knowing the harm climate change could cause, Exxon Mobil left its oil storage facilities in Everett, Mass., Providence, R.I., and elsewhere vulnerable to flooding from storms and rising seas.

"This failure to act put local communities at risk of catastrophic releases of oil and hazardous substances — events more and more likely given the extreme weather and bigger storms already experienced by New Englanders every year," it said.

Based on its findings, it filed the lawsuit in federal district court in Massachusetts. The crux of the group's argument is based on two factors: the "climate deceit" and Clean Water Act violations associated with oil storage facilities in Everett.

"We are at a major tipping point in ending the fossil fuel era," the foundation said. "Building on several national investigations against Exxon Mobil, our lawsuit sets the precedent for the dynamic role of local advocacy in taking down global giants."