Overnight Energy: Green group sues Exxon over climate science

FIRST CIVIL SUIT AGAINST EXXON: An environmental law organization has sued ExxonMobil Corp. in the first civil suit against the company stemming from the controversy over its climate science.

The Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) says an Exxon terminal outside Boston is leaking pollution into the Mystic River beyond what is allowed under the facility's permits.

The suit also alleges Exxon has not done enough to prepare the facility for climate change, and it warns that extreme weather events brought on by a warming Earth could damage the terminal and threaten the river and nearby communities.

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A handful of Democratic attorneys general, including Massachusetts's Maura Healey, have launched high-profile investigations into Exxon's climate science. But the CLF lawsuit is the first suit filed against the oil giant since news reports last year concluded Exxon knew about climate change for decades and did nothing to warn the public.

"It's time to make Exxon answer for decades of false statements to the public and to regulators and ensure that its Everett facility meets its legal obligation to protect thousands of people and the Boston Harbor estuary from toxic water pollution," CLF president Bradley Campbell said.

Exxon has denied the allegations about its climate science, and said the terminal in question in this lawsuit has recently passed government inspections. It promised to fight the suit in court.

Read more here.

Smith probes SEC investigation into Exxon: Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) is taking the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to task for its new investigation into Exxon's climate change statements.

In a letter to SEC chairwoman Mary Jo White, Smith demanded a wide swath of documents related to the probe, and warned that it could chill scientific inquiry.

"The committee is concerned that the SEC, by wielding its enforcement authority against companies like Exxon for its collection of and reliance on what is perhaps in the SEC's view inadequate climate data used to value its assets, advances a prescriptive climate change orthodoxy that may chill further climate change research throughout the public and private scientific R&D sector," Smith, the chairman of the House Space, Science and Technology Committee, wrote.

"Specifically, the committee is concerned that an investigation into whether Exxon failed to comply with the climate change-related disclosure regulations for its oil reserves and other assets may be a disincentive to conducting scientific research that underlies and informs those asset valuations," he said.

This summer, Smith subpoenaed Healey and others for information related to their investigations of Exxon's climate science.

Read more here.

REPUBLICAN JOINS LOBBY FIRM: Former Rep. Ed WhitfieldWayne (Ed) Edward WhitfieldWhy Republicans took aim at an ethics watchdog What Azerbaijan wants from Israel? Overnight Energy: Green group sues Exxon over climate science MORE (R-Ky.) has joined lobbying firm Farragut Partners, it announced Thursday.

Whitfield, who chaired the House's subcommittee on energy and power, was hired weeks after he resigned amid an ethics investigation that accused him of not doing enough to prevent inappropriate communications between a staffer and his wife, a lobbyist.

The firm, whose clients include Valero, Energy Future Holdings, NextEra Energy and Southern Co., emphasized Whitfield's subcommittee chairmanship in announcing the hire.

It said he "brings a wealth of experience and policy expertise having served on the front lines of every major policy debate in the healthcare, telecom and energy areas over the past two decades."

Read more here.

GREENS PUSH OBAMA ON DAKOTA ACCESS: Nineteen House Democrats are asking President Obama to rescind the permits issued by the Army Corps of Engineers for the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline.

In a Thursday letter to Obama, the Democrats, led by Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said Obama should ensure "a comprehensive environmental review with rigorous and meaningful tribal consultations" before allowing construction on the project to go forward.

Construction on a short stretch of the 1,170-mile Dakota Access in North Dakota is paused while the administration reviews its permitting decisions on the pipeline project. A federal judge approved the Army Corps' permitting of the project earlier this month.

But Democrats say the delay -- and a separate review of overall permitting strategies for infrastructure projects near tribal land -- isn't enough, and that Obama should do a new environmental review of the Dakota Access project entirely.

"We applaud this pause and urge you to go further -- like you did with your rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline -- to require a full environmental review and expanded consultation along the full route of the Dakota Access Pipeline.  "

AROUND THE WEB:

Two cellphone towers near Yellowstone National Park have extended cellular coverage into the park, despite administrators' hope to minimize cellphone access there, the Associated Press reports.

Officials have signed the documents necessary to clear the way for construction of the UK's controversial Hinkley nuclear power plant project, Sky News reports.

Vox has published a photographer's images of Iran's Lake Urmia, "once a source of national pride and one of the country's top tourism destinations," which has been stricken by climate change.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out Thursday's stories ...

-Judges pause changes to federal red wolf protections
-Lobby firm hires Republican who resigned after ethics investigation
-Feds subpoena Chesapeake Energy over accounting practices
-GOP chairman slams SEC over Exxon investigation
-Exxon hit with first civil suit over climate science

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