by Erin Mundahl
According to the hashtag, ExxonKnew, but what it knew and when has doubtless been more complicated than New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and his supporters hoped when they first announced their lawsuit against ExxonMobil. This week, the tattered ExxonKnew campaign reached a significant milestone, turning two years old. Since it began in 2015, the lawsuit against ExxonMobil has involved four different legal strategies, led to more than 3 million pages of documents being turned over to investigators on both sides, and has spread into several different states. Despite the large expenditure of time and resources, Schneiderman is no closer to filing official charges against the company.
The idea for the ExxonKnew campaign was first hatched at a 2012 meeting between environmentalists, activists, and scientists. At the meeting, they developed a plan to attack Big Oil using a strategy similar to the one that brought down Big Tobacco. They planned to use racketeering laws to go after oil companies, including ExxonMobil, by accusing them of knowingly hiding information about the harms of global warming…
E&E Legal, a a non-profit group engaged in litigation and public education on energy and environmental issues, has sued in several states for additional information about communication between Schneiderman and attorneys general in other states. In Vermont, for example, E&E Legal is in the process of suing former Attorney General Bill Sorrell for emails between his office and Schneiderman which could illuminate whether their offices coordinated lawsuits against Exxon.
Last week, E&E Legal started a new suit against California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, seeking email correspondence between Becerra, his office, and a list of environmental activists. Becerra has taken criticism from both sides of the debate in California. Prior to leaving for the Senate, his predecessor, Kamala Harris, had begun an investigation into Exxon’s awareness of global warming risks. Becerra, to the dismay of Democratic members of California’s Congressional delegation, and the LA Times Editorial Board, has been loathe to take up the issue. Even so, E&E wants more information about any correspondence he might have had with various figures tied to the campaign.