New York State Latest to Sue Over Climate Change


New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood launched a lawsuit on October 24th against ExxonMobil Corporation over the company’s treatment of climate change-related risks and costs. The suit alleges that ExxonMobil knew, with precision, the social cost of carbon and the cost of future carbon mitigation policies, but that the company did not accurately include these costs in its decision making and in its public filings.
This is the latest in a series of state and local lawsuits, thus far unsuccessful, to make fossil fuel-producing companies pay a price for not being sufficiently alarmed by climate change. Last July, a federal judge dismissed a case filed by two California cities against ExxonMobil and other oil companies, ruling that climate change is a political rather than legal controversy.
Undeterred by the dismissal of a similar case brought by New York City, the State of New York is now the latest entity to give litigation another try. The suit is being brought under the Martin Act, a 1921 law that gives the state attorney general broad powers to investigate securities fraud and bring civil or criminal charges against violators.
It is unknown how ExxonMobil will respond to the latest lawsuit. The company recently pledged $1 million dollars to lobby for carbon taxes to address climate change.
It should be noted that this lawsuit had input from a lawyer funded by Michael Bloomberg to work with state attorneys general on climate litigation. For a detailed account of this special interest involvement in state climate litigation, see Government for Rent: How Special Interests Finance Governors to Pursue Their Climate Policy Agenda by Chris Horner.