June 24, 2020

MN350, 350.org applaud Minnesota lawsuit holding Big Oil accountable for history of lying about climate damage

MN350 applauds the decision of Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison to file a consumer fraud protection lawsuit against ExxonMobil, Koch Industries, and the American Petroleum Institute for lying to the public about the damage they knew their products caused.

For decades, the world’s largest oil company, the state’s largest oil refiner, and the nation’s largest trade association for the oil and gas industry knew that burning fossil fuels caused climate change. But instead of telling the public about it to avert disaster, the defendants launched a multibillion-dollar disinformation campaign to cover it up.

“Accountability is a Minnesota value,” said MN350 Executive Director Sam Grant, who appeared at Wednesday’s news conference announcing the lawsuit. “We want Exxon, Koch, and API to pay for their lies. Their acts of fraud harmed all Minnesotans. We deserve our day in court, and we stand with future generations.”

Minnesotans place a high value on accountability. We’ve seen this with the recent demand to hold police accountable and change law enforcement systems that brutalize and kill Black people in Minnesota and nationwide. Like police abuse, climate change is a racial justice issue because it falls hardest on Black and indigenous peoples and on other communities of color.

“Here in Minnesota, it is our populations of color — particularly our urban African American population and our American Indian population whether urban or rural — that face the most grave health disparities, disparities contributed to by corporations that have knowingly deceived the public, distorted the science, and made tremendous profits while causing irreparable socio-environmental harm,” Grant said during the news conference.

Fossil fuel companies have responded to similar lawsuits in other states by investing millions of dollars to attack the groups that file them. The strategy is similar to the approach used for decades by big tobacco as it tried to avoid consequences for its fraudulent behavior.

“They will come after our state,” Grant said. “But we’re on the side of history. No one can forget how blue our skies were during the first months of shutdown in the pandemic, when we stopped pumping so much carbon dioxide into the air. You can’t unsee that, and it won’t be gas-lit.”

“Now a generation is saying, enough. The Minnesota State Board of Investment has announced it will disinvest from coal, and turn more toward renewable energy and consumption. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has announced a hearing to reconsider permits for Line 3, the crude oil pipeline from Canada.

“This lawsuit is a long overdue step toward forcing these industries to pay for the damage they’ve done by misleading the world. Reckoning with the crimes of this industry is also the start of building the clean energy infrastructure and more humane society we’ll need to mitigate the disaster they’ve made. This is the start of a better Minnesota and a planet where everyone — no matter their skin color, zip code, or income — can thrive.”

Tamara Toles O’Laughlin, North America director of the global climate justice organization 350.org, also praised the lawsuit. “It’s past time for this gang of fossil fuel criminals to be held accountable for decades of destruction,” she said. “We applaud Attorney General Ellison and progressive Minnesotans for their demonstration of climate leadership.

“As the country fights for Black lives, it takes courage to call out corporate bad guys trying to escape liability. They have twisted the truth, blocked climate action, and bankrolled climate-denying politicians, all to maintain power at the expense of the people. We fully support bold actions that move money from bad business to resilience for Black and Indigenous communities.” 

Grant also urged Ellison to publicly oppose the massive Line 3 pipeline in Northern Minnesota proposed by the Canadian oil giant Enbridge Energy. The pipeline would generate the equivalent of 50 coal plants worth of carbon pollution, more than the entire state of Minnesota produces in a year.

“We applaud the AG’s office for this lawsuit and look forward to similar action against Enbridge and the Line 3 pipeline.”


For a livestreamed recording of the press conference, visit: https://www.facebook.com/MN350/videos/700938420697817/

MN350 is a statewide group with 20,000 supporters working to make Minnesota a national leader in a just transition to a clean energy economy. MN350 Action is its political and advocacy arm.

Contact: Brett Benson, Communications Director, [email protected], (651) 368-1226

Lindsay Meiman, Sr. US Communincations Specialist, [email protected], (347) 460-9082