Updated: June 24, 2020 12:32 PM
Created: June 24, 2020 11:39 AM
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced on Wednesday he had filed a consumer protection lawsuit against oil companies that he claims defrauded Minnesotans about climate change.
The lawsuit against ExxonMobil, Koch Industries and the American Petroleum Institute includes claims for fraud, failure to warn and separate violations of Minnesota statutes that prohibit consumer fraud, deceptive trade practices and false statements in advertising, according to a statement from the Attorney General's Office.
"We're here suing these defendants — API, ExxonMobil and Koch — for hiding the truth, confusing the facts and muddling the water to devastating effect," Ellison said in a news conference.
ExxonMobil is one of the largest producers of oil in the United States; Koch Industries is a Kansas-based corporation that produces petroleum products and is heavily involved in oil lobbying; and the American Petroleum Institute is a trade organization that represents America's oil and natural gas industry.
Aside from an injunction against continued violations of consumer protection laws, the lawsuit is also requesting that the defendants pay restitution for Minnesotans and fund a public education campaign on climate change.
With Wednesday's filing, Minnesota joins states such as Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island in seeking to hold companies to account for their roles in the harm caused by climate change.
“When corporations and trade associations break the law and hurt Minnesotans, it’s my job and my duty to hold them accountable. The fraud, deceptive advertising, and other violations of Minnesota state law and common law that the lawsuit shows they perpetrated have harmed Minnesotans’ health and our state’s environment, infrastructure, and economy,” Ellison said in a statement.
In a news conference, Ellison said he feels confident in Minnesota's ability to win a lawsuit based on the state's "strong" consumer protection laws.
Doug Blanke, who directs the Public Health Law Center at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, said Ellison has a strong case. Blanke worked on a previous lawsuit the state successfully brought against tobacco companies that cited some of the same statutes.
“Misleading the public about science is not a new concept,” Blanke said in a statement. “Unfortunately, some companies seem to care more about their bottom lines than the public’s health. But it’s a violation of Minnesota law to mislead consumers about the products you sell, and the Attorney General has laid out a powerful case that these companies did exactly that.”
In the news conference, Ellison brought speakers to the podium who explained how climate change has disproportionately affected farmers, Black and Indigenous populations and younger generations.
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