Exxon tries to sink democracy, sue 30 people associated with climate change lawsuits, alleging conspiracy

Note:  A nationally and internationally known attorney on one of the climate suits in the US says this does not have much chance in court.  It is just designed to intimidate and waste time and resources.

Reprinted from Clean Technica, February 22nd, 2018 by 

As a result of numerous organizations filing lawsuits against Exxon in recent times in relation to anthropogenic climate change, the oil giant has now filed lawsuits against a large collection of people associated with these suits, alleging conspiracy.

The idea, reportedly, is that various government officials, lawyers, and activists have been conspiring as part of something dubbed by Exxon as “The La Jolla playbook” for the last 6 years in a bid to damage the firm’s public image.

Altogether, more than 30 people and organizations — including New York and Massachusetts attorneys general — are now being sued, or being threatened with lawsuits, by Exxon in relation.

The alleged “La Jolla playbook” was, according to Exxon, originally the product of around two dozen people who first devised the alleged plans at an oceanside residence in La Jolla, California.

Commenting on widespread requests for depositions from important figures in relation to these lawsuits, a professor at Fordham University School of Law in New York by the name of Howard Erichson was quoted by Bloomberg as saying: “It’s an aggressive move. Does Exxon really need these depositions or is Exxon seeking the depositions to harass mayors and city attorneys into dropping their lawsuits?”

Arguably, given the very deep pockets of the firm, Exxon’s motives are at least partly simply intended to send a message to those considering filing lawsuits against it: Doing so won’t be cheap or easy.

Bloomberg provides more:

“Experts say Exxon’s combative strategy — an extraordinary gambit to turn the tables — is a clear sign of what’s at stake for the fossil-fuel industry. So far, New York City and 8 California cities and counties, including San Francisco and Oakland, have sued Exxon and other oil and gas companies. They allege that oil companies denied findings of climate-change scientists despite knowing that the use of fossil fuels posed ‘grave risk’ to the planet.

“Attorneys general Eric Schneiderman of New York and Maura Healey of Massachusetts, are investigating whether Exxon covered up information on climate change, defrauding shareholders, and consumers. Exxon, the world’s 10th biggest company, has denied the allegations and says its defense is intended to show that it’s being punished for not toeing the line on climate change, even though it agrees with the scientific consensus.

“The attorneys general have violated Exxon Mobil’s right to participate in the national conversation about how to address the risks presented by climate change,” stated Dan Toal, a lawyer representing Exxon. “That is the speech at issue here — not some straw man argument about whether climate change is real.”

A fair enough argument. There’s no doubt of course that Exxon execs have been aware of anthropogenic climate change and the climate forcing effects of greenhouse gases for numerous decades now (see: Edward Teller Warned Oil Industry About Carbon Dioxide & Climate Change 6 Decades Ago), so the company’s arguments are likely to simply align along economic lines (the cost of moving away from fossil fuels to society, etc.).

To provide another side of things here, one of the lawyers at the original La Jolla meeting 6 years ago, Sharon Eubanks, was quoted by Bloomberg as saying: “It’s crazy that people are subpoenaed for attending a meeting. It’s sort of like a big scare tactic: reframe the debate, use it as a diversionary tactic, and scare the heck out of everybody.”

Bloomberg provides further details on the matter:

“Exxon has focused on the La Jolla meeting as ground zero for its conspiracy claim. Ironically, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, a nonprofit run by descendants of John D Rockefeller who are pressing Exxon to address climate change issues, has funded organizations that led the La Jolla conference (Exxon, which grew out of John D’s Standard Oil, also subpoenaed the fund to testify.)

“At the gathering, participants met to discuss litigation strategies that could be applied to climate change, according to a 35-page summary that was later made public. Eubanks, a former Justice Department lawyer, talked about how the US government used the racketeering law against cigarette makers, for example. More than 4 years after the meeting, Eubanks got a subpoena from Exxon to testify about it. The subpoena is pending.

“Exxon has also aimed its legal firepower at Matthew Pawa, whose firm represents Oakland, San Francisco and New York in their suits against Exxon. Last month, Exxon asked a state judge in Fort Worth, Texas, to order Pawa to turn over documents and testify under oath about the La Jolla conference and other conversations with lawyers and activists. He’s also been subpoenaed to testify in a federal action Exxon has brought against the state attorneys general.”

In addition, a further 15 officials and municipal lawyers in California have now been subpoenaed for testimonies — all in conjunction to a future lawsuit that will reportedly allege civil conspiracy and a violation of Exxon’s First Amendment rights, as well as the violation of other Constitutional rights.

As you may recall, companies are now considered to have the same rights as humans from a legal standpoint in the US.

So, what can be made of the new lawsuits from Exxon? Just another spectacle for the public? Another way for the various “sports teams” that comprise most of what passes for politics these days to hoot and holler at each other? Another spectacle at the coliseum? Another way to curtail actual change and keep “business and usual” churning? Or is there more to it than that?

I’ll just note here, as an ending to things, that the hands on the Doomsday Clock were recently moved forward to 2 Minutes to Midnight, and that this spectacle is playing out against a much broader backdrop.

This broader backdrop — which most Americans and Europeans choose to be ignorant of — includes the inevitable decline of the US imperial wealth-pump system, enormous soil erosion and nutrient depletion problems (and the beginning of agricultural yield declines), a shifting geopolitical environment that sees major foreign powers eyeing the untapped concentrated resource reserves of the melting Arctic region, ever-growing pollution problems, and the cultural and societal collapse that seems to always follow from long periods of relative prosperity (and the return to earlier base-level conditions).