Exxon claims California climate change hypocrisy

ExxonMobil is trying to turn the tables on its climate change opponents.The oil company said it's the victim o...

Posted: Jan 9, 2018 11:47 PM
Updated: Jan 9, 2018 11:47 PM

ExxonMobil is trying to turn the tables on its climate change opponents.

The oil company said it's the victim of a vast "conspiracy," brought on by multiple cities and counties in California.

San Francisco, Oakland and other municipalities have sued Exxon, demanding the oil giant and its rivals pay billions to cover damage from looming sea level rise due to climate change.

In a court filing in Texas on Monday, Exxon argued that these California cities and counties have contradicted themselves by admitting in bond sales that climate change risks are unpredictable. Exxon threatened a counter-lawsuit over alleged "abuse of government power."

Exxon said that while these cities and towns warned that "imminent sea level rise presented a substantial threat to its jurisdiction...none of the municipalities disclosed to investors such risks."

Federal law requires companies and governments to reveal risks to investors before selling securities like stock or in this case muni bonds.

Exxon essentially accused the municipalities of fraud, arguing that this "stark and irreconcilable conflict" suggests the allegations local governments made against the oil industry "are not honestly held and were not made in good faith."

In the court filing, Exxon requested permission to investigate potential "abuse of process" and "civil conspiracy" by deposing 16 individuals, including city officials from Oakland and San Francisco who are leading the lawsuit against the company.

A spokesman for San Francisco's city attorney called the Exxon move "outrageous" and an "attempted end-run around the California courts." He added, "it's exactly what you would expect from a company like Exxon."

Marin County counsel Brian Washington, who Exxon wants to depose, said local officials won't be dissuaded by Exxon's petition.

"We will continue to stand up for our taxpayers so that they aren't on the hook for all the costs of addressing the damage caused by Exxon and others in the fossil fuel industry," Washington said in a statement.

Representatives from Oakland did not respond to a request by CNNMoney for comment.

Michael Burger, executive director for Columbia University's Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, said he "can't imagine any court will treat seriously" Exxon's complaints.

"It wouldn't be farfetched to see this as an attempt to harass the officials in the lawsuit as a way to scare them off of it," Burger said.

Related: Exxon gives up major climate change fight

Jane Montgomery, an environmental law partner at law firm Schiff Hardin, said Exxon's strategy is designed to make it more difficult for the California cities and counties to pursue their lawsuit.

"They are just turning the tables...I don't know that it kills" the California lawsuits, said Montgomery, who has represented energy companies.

The Exxon claims mark the latest flashpoint between Big Oil and opponents of the fossil fuel industry.

The long-running battle accelerated last year when San Francisco and Oakland became the first major U.S. cities to attempt to shift the costs of climate change from the public to oil companies themselves. The Bay Area cities demanded Exxon, Chevron, BP, ConocoPhillips and Royal Dutch Shell pay for the costs of sea walls and other protections against rising sea levels.

In the petition filed on Monday, Exxon paints itself as a victim of "abusive law enforcement tactics and litigation" by those trying to achieve "political objectives."

"ExxonMobil finds itself directly in that conspiracy's crosshairs," the filing said, adding that Exxon has reason to believe local municipal officials could "conceal and potentially even destroy evidence."

Related: Oil giant bets on electric cars

To make its case, Exxon pointed to various examples of alleged hypocrisy by the California cities it's being sued by.

For instance, last year Oakland told investors in a bond offering that "the City is unable to predict when" events such as "sea rise or other impacts of climate change...could occur, when they may occur" or their impact on the local economy.

Yet in Oakland's lawsuit against Exxon and other oil companies it spelled out specific consequences of climate change. Oakland said that by 2100 the city is likely to have up to "66 inches of sea level rise" that along with flooding will threaten its sewer system and property at a cost of up to $38 billion.

Exxon has faced renewed pressure over climate change following the release of a recent Harvard study that concluded the company "misled the public." The study found that for nearly 40 years Exxon publicly raised doubt over the dangers of climate change even as scientists within the company acknowledged the growing threat.

--CNN's Rene Marsh contributed to this report.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 297321

Reported Deaths: 6805
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto19814231
Hinds18949395
Harrison16886282
Rankin12842265
Jackson12750234
Lee9720163
Madison9516204
Jones8035148
Forrest7289138
Lauderdale6872228
Lowndes6061140
Lamar593381
Lafayette5767114
Washington5232130
Bolivar4630124
Oktibbeha443095
Panola433698
Pearl River4212132
Warren4144115
Pontotoc411071
Marshall405995
Monroe3996129
Union397174
Neshoba3848171
Lincoln3624104
Hancock352978
Leflore3400121
Sunflower320986
Tate303974
Pike302697
Scott296171
Alcorn292763
Yazoo292066
Itawamba290675
Coahoma283069
Tippah280065
Copiah279959
Simpson277581
Prentiss271258
Marion258878
Wayne255641
Leake254172
Covington250280
Grenada248878
Adams235778
George232745
Newton232753
Winston222179
Jasper214145
Tishomingo213266
Attala206971
Chickasaw201954
Holmes182870
Clay179452
Stone173429
Tallahatchie171739
Clarke170773
Calhoun158628
Smith153833
Yalobusha145736
Greene128133
Walthall125441
Montgomery123540
Noxubee123431
Perry123235
Lawrence121421
Carroll119425
Amite112435
Webster111132
Jefferson Davis102731
Tunica99824
Claiborne99030
Benton94024
Humphreys93128
Kemper91423
Quitman77514
Franklin76420
Choctaw70117
Jefferson62827
Wilkinson62727
Sharkey49217
Issaquena1676
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 499411

Reported Deaths: 10149
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson719951403
Mobile36396741
Madison32674469
Tuscaloosa24391423
Montgomery22789523
Shelby22250219
Baldwin19915289
Lee15070161
Calhoun13961296
Morgan13785255
Etowah13413327
Marshall11458215
Houston10121264
Elmore9509190
Limestone9435139
St. Clair9050228
Cullman8993183
Lauderdale8628214
DeKalb8507175
Talladega7643165
Walker6600260
Jackson6551104
Autauga634492
Blount6252128
Colbert6007121
Coffee5261104
Dale4680107
Russell407534
Franklin400779
Covington3996107
Chilton3911104
Escambia379473
Tallapoosa3637143
Clarke344553
Chambers3432111
Dallas3428142
Pike292973
Marion288796
Lawrence285787
Winston258568
Bibb246058
Marengo244657
Geneva240270
Pickens225757
Barbour213851
Hale212569
Fayette202657
Butler201466
Henry183541
Cherokee178140
Monroe166739
Randolph165141
Washington157036
Macon147845
Crenshaw146755
Clay146254
Cleburne140141
Lamar133933
Lowndes133151
Wilcox123225
Bullock117736
Conecuh107224
Perry106427
Sumter100832
Coosa90324
Greene88732
Choctaw55723
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Clear
59° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 32°
Feels Like: 59°
Columbus
Clear
59° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 32°
Feels Like: 59°
Oxford
Partly Cloudy
50° wxIcon
Hi: 63° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 50°
Starkville
Clear
50° wxIcon
Hi: 62° Lo: 32°
Feels Like: 50°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather