Vermont claims in new lawsuit oil companies misled public on climate change

Vermont claims in new lawsuit oil companies misled public on climate change
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The Vermont state government on Tuesday sued multiple oil companies, alleging they misled the public about the impact that fossil fuels have on climate change.

Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan (D) announced the move on Twitter, writing, "Today I am suing Exxon Mobil Corporation, Shell Oil Company, Sunoco LP, CITGO Petroleum Corporation, & other related companies for deceptive and unfair practices."

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"We will not stand by while these companies lie about the dramatic effects of their products on the climate," he added.

In the lawsuit, Donovan accused the companies of violating the Vermont Consumer Protection Act (VCPA) by "engaging over a long period of time in numerous deceptive acts and unfair practices in connection with their marketing, distribution, and sale of gasoline and other fossil fuel products to consumers within the State."

Donovan alleged that by misleading consumers on the connection between fossil fuels and climate change, these oil companies have denied "Vermont consumers their opportunity to make informed and different decisions regarding fossil fuel purchases and consumption. 

The Vermont attorney general went on to accuse the companies of "greenwashing" themselves by projecting an image of being environmentally conscious while failing to acknowledge the role that their products have in raising global temperatures.

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He argued that while increasing their output of environmentally conscious messaging on social media, these oil companies expanded their production and investments into fossil fuels, thereby negating what they said publicly.

As part of the lawsuit, Donovan has requested that a judge order the oil companies named as defendants to stop "engaging in unfair or deceptive acts and practices," and to require them to disclose funds acquired through their "unlawful" practices.

The Hill has reached out for comment to the oil companies named in the lawsuit.

"Legal proceedings like this waste millions of dollars of taxpayer money and do nothing to advance meaningful actions that reduce the risks of climate change," ExxonMobil said in a statement to The Hill.

"ExxonMobil will continue to invest in efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while meeting society’s growing demand for energy. The claims are baseless and without merit. We look forward to defending the company in court."

Vermont is the most recent state government to sue oil companies over climate change related issues. In the past few years, states such as Delaware, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York and Rhode Island have all filed lawsuits against oil companies for allegedly misleading consumers and investors in the role their products had on worsening climate change.

Updated at 5:54 p.m.