These Communities Sued Big Oil Over Climate Change; Then The Backlash Began

McClatchy cited the Competitive Enterprise Institute and its litigation efforts in response to infringement on the organization’s free-speech rights as well as peititioning against cities suing Exxon for bond fraud. 

The Competitive Enterprise Institute has also entered the fray. The recipient of millions of dollars in funding from Exxon and the oil industry, CEI has been among the most effective non-profit groups in spreading doubt about climate change science.

President Donald Trump signed a sweeping executive order changing most of President Barack Obama’s climate change policies, on Tuesday. “My administration is putting an end to the war on coal,” Trump said. The White House

In May of 2016, the group purchased a full-page ad in the New York Times criticizing the attorneys general of New York and the U.S. Virgin Islands for subpoenaing documents from CEI and other groups related to the climate investigation of Exxon. CEI claimed its free-speech rights were being violated.

“CEI ran an aggressive campaign to generate backlash against the USVI case,” said Kert Davies, founder of the Climate Investigations Center, a group that tracks the oil industry and its non-profit allies.

It worked. By late June that year, the Virgin Islands dropped its subpoena.

In February, three weeks after Exxon filed its legal action in Texas, the Competitive Enterprise Institute filed a petition with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission urging the SEC to investigate the cities and counties suing Exxon for bond fraud. “The plaintiff cities and counties apparently describe these climate risks in ways that are far different than how they described them in their own bond offerings,” said the CEI in its petition.

The language in the CEI petition mirrors that of Exxon’s. Both, for instance, cite Santa Cruz County’s claims in court that it will face a 98 percent chance of a “devastating three-foot-flood by 2050,” an assertion not included in the county’s bond prospectus.

A CEI lawyer, however, said the group’s petition to the SEC was based on its own research. “We were reading through some of the cases the cities had brought, and saw it did not match what they were telling investors,” said Devin Watkins, who co-wrote the petition.

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