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V.I. AG’s Office Looking Into Whether Exxon Mobil Deceived The Public On Climate Change (UPDATE!)


CHARLOTTE AMALIE — V.I. Attorney General Claude Walker is investigating whether Exxon Mobil deceived the public or shareholders about the effects of climate change, joining similar inquiries into the oil giant launched by Massachusetts, New York and California.

The investigation, announced this week, came as nearly two dozen state attorneys general said at a New York news conference that they had formed a coalition to explore legal ways to combat global warming by filing lawsuits and briefs or by opening environmental, consumer or financial probes.

Former Vice President Al Gore, who joined the attorneys general, likened the approach to how states took on the tobacco industry decades ago.

The state investigations followed news reports by InsideClimate News and others that internal Exxon documents from the late 1970s showed an awareness that global warming might threaten the company’s existence.

In a statement, Suzanne McCarron, Exxon’s vice president for public and government affairs, called such allegations politically motivated and baseless.

“The allegations are based on the false premise that ExxonMobil reached definitive conclusions about anthropogenic climate change before the world’s experts and before the science itself had matured, and then withheld it from the broader scientific community,” she said. “Such a claim is preposterous.”

Walker said he wanted to know what, and when, a large energy company knew about climate change. His office confirmed Exxon was the target of that investigation.

“We will not stop until we get to the bottom of this and make it clear, to our residents as well as the American people, that we have to do something transformational,” the V.I. attorney general said. “We cannot continue to rely on fossil fuel.”

Companies that “deceived investors and consumers about the dangers of climate change should be held accountable,” said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey.

Massachusetts will investigate ExxonMobil and whether it misled the public and its shareholders about the financial and market risks posed by climate change, joining the Virgin Islands, New York and California to probe whether such actions could constitute consumer or securities fraud, or violation of environmental laws.

Attorney General Maura Healey spoke at a press conference Tuesday alongside New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, former Vice President Al Gore and others to announce that attorneys general from 16 states and the Virgin Islands are joining forces to investigate Exxon and other corporations.

“Fossil fuel companies that deceived investors and consumers about the dangers of climate change must be held accountable,” Healey said, adding that there is a “troubling disconnect between what Exxon knew, what industry folks knew, and the company and industry chose to share with investors and the American public.”

The announcement follows reports from InsideClimate News and the Los Angeles Times that ExxonMobil knew about the connection between fossil fuels and climate change as far back as 1977, and even planned internally for its impacts, while at the same time working publicly to discredit climate science.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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