Climate groups file brief supporting Minnesota's climate fraud lawsuit
Amicus brief supports Attorney General Ellison’s lawsuit holding Big Oil liable for decades of lying about the impact of fossil fuels on our environment
August 27, 2021
St. Paul, MN -- Three Minnesota climate groups -- Fresh Energy, MN350, and the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy -- have joined a group of academics and two national climate organizations in an amicus brief supporting Attorney General Keith Ellison’s consumer fraud lawsuit that seeks to hold Exxon Mobil, Koch Industries, and the American Petroleum Institute liable for lying about the impact of their fossil fuel products on the climate.
The amicus brief, also known as a “friend of the court” brief, was filed Wednesday at the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals to support Minnesota’s argument that the case should be tried in state court. Fossil fuel companies are facing similar lawsuits in more than a dozen other states, cities and counties nationwide and have resorted to delay tactics, similar to what the tobacco industry used when it faced fraud claims 20 years ago. A district judge in Hawaii has noted that the fossil fuel industry has “a batting average of .000” in its arguments around the country to have the lawsuits that were filed in state court, including Minnesota's, instead heard in federal court.
Wednesday’s amicus brief was filed on behalf of six academics who have studied the fossil fuel industry’s history of climate denial and deception, the Center for Climate Integrity, Fresh Energy, MN350, the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, and the Union of Concerned Scientists. The introduction from the amicus brief:
At least 50 years ago, Defendants had information from their own internal research, as well as from the international scientific community, that the unabated extraction, production, promotion, and sale of their fossil-fuel products would endanger the public. Defendants failed to disclose this information or take steps to protect the public. Instead, they acted to conceal their knowledge and discredit climate science, running misleading marketing campaigns and funding scientists and third-party organizations to exaggerate scientific uncertainty and promote contrarian theories, in direct contradiction to their research and actions taken to protect their assets from climate change impacts.
Defendants’ coordinated, multi-front effort, demonstrated by their own documents and actions, justifies the claims that the State of Minnesota has asserted here as Plaintiff. As early as the late 1950s and no later than 1968, Defendants had actual knowledge of the risks associated with fossil fuels. In the decades that followed, Defendants took affirmative steps to sow doubt and uncertainty, in part by funding contrarian science that advanced alternative theories. While they told Minnesotans that there was no reason for concern, Defendants took climate risks into account in managing their own infrastructure—for example, by raising the height of their oil rigs to account for rising sea levels. In taking these fraudulent, deceptive, and misleading actions, Defendants violated Minnesota’s state consumer protection statutes, as alleged by Plaintiff, and therefore should be held liable.
Separately, 17 state attorneys general, including California AG Rob Bonta, filed amicus briefs Wednesday supporting Minnesota’s case.
The results of fossil fuel interests’ decades of lying are now being felt across the world. In Minnesota alone the state estimates that Minnesotans pay more than $1 billion annually in climate related costs. MN 350 launched a video this spring highlighting the impact these decades of lies have had on Minnesota.