NJ Sues Oil, Gas Companies, Trade Group Over Climate Change – GNT NEWS

New Jersey officials announced a lawsuit Tuesday against five oil and gas companies and an oil trade organization, alleging that they knew for decades about the harmful effects of fossil fuels on climate change, but instead misled the public about the connection.

Attorney General Matthew Platkin and the state Department of Consumer Affairs and Environmental Protection said the lawsuit was filed Tuesday in Mercer County Superior Court on behalf of Exxon Mobil Corp., Shell Oil Co. Chevron Corp., BP, ConocoPhillips and the American Petroleum Institute trade group of which they are all members.

The lawsuit alleges that the defendants failed to warn the public about the role of fossil fuels in climate change and instead “launched public relations campaigns to sow doubt about the existence, causes and effects of climate change.”

“Based on their own research, these companies realized decades ago that their products are causing climate change and will have devastating impacts on the environment in the future,” Platkin said in a statement. “They have gone to great lengths to hide the truth and mislead the people of New Jersey and the world.”

Shawn LaTourette, the state’s environmental commissioner, called New Jersey “ground zero” for some of the worst impacts of climate change. The commissioner added that Garden State communities and the environment “continue to recover from extreme heat, severe storms and devastating flooding.”

The suit comes just before the 10th anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, which devastated large parts of New Jersey and New York City. The announcement of the lawsuit was made at Liberty State Park in Jersey City, which was inundated by floodwaters from the storm.

The lawsuit seeks civil penalties and damages, including damages to natural resources such as wetlands, saying taxpayers will have to pay billions of dollars to protect communities from rising sea levels, deadlier storms and other adverse effects, and arguing those costs should be paid by the defendant.

Several other states and cities have filed similar lawsuits against oil and gas companies in recent years.

Shell Group said in a statement that its position on climate change “has been on the public record for decades” and that the company agreed that action was needed and had played its part by “addressing our own emissions and helping customers reduce theirs.”

“As the energy system evolves, so will our business, to provide the product mix our customers need and expand the economic and social benefits of energy access for all,” the company said. However, Shell said it was “really collaborative, it needed a whole-of-society approach” and the courtroom was not “the right place.” Instead, the company said, “smart government policy, supported by action from all business sectors, including ours, and civil society, is the right way to find solutions and drive progress.”

Exxon Mobil spokesman Casey Norton said such legal actions “waste millions of dollars of taxpayer money and do nothing to advance meaningful actions that reduce the risk of climate change.” Norton said the company “will continue to invest in efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while meeting society’s growing demand for energy.”

Chevron called the legal action “a distraction from the serious problem of global climate change, rather than an attempt to find a real solution.” The representative called it an attempt to “punish a select group of energy companies for a problem that is the result of worldwide behavior that goes back to the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.” The company called the claims “legally and factually unfounded” and vowed “to prove it in court” while continuing to work with the public and private sectors “to create real solutions to global climate change.”

Representatives for BP and ConocoPhillips declined to comment; A message was also sent to the trade organization asking for comment.

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