The attorney general for the District of Columbia on Thursday filed a lawsuit against Exxon Mobil Corp, BP Plc, Chevron Corp, and Royal Dutch Shell Plc for "systematically and intentionally misleading" consumers about the role their products play in causing climate change, the latest action by a US attorney general against the oil and gas industry.
The lawsuit brought by Attorney General Karl Racine comes a day after Minnesota AG Keith Ellison filed a lawsuit against the American Petroleum Institute, Exxon Mobil and Koch Industries for violating state laws barring consumer fraud, deceptive trade practices and false advertising.
"The defendants violated the District’s consumer protection law by concealing the fact that using fossil fuels threatens the health of District residents and the environment," Racine said in a statement.
The intent of the legal action is to "end these disinformation campaigns and to hold these companies accountable for their deceptive practices,” he said.
Casey Norton, a spokesman for Exxon, said the lawsuit is part of a "coordinated, politically motivated" campaign against energy companies.
"The claims are baseless and without merit. We look forward to defending the company in court," he said.
Sean Comey, a spokesman for Chevron echoed claims about the merit of the case and said the litigation "distracts" from its efforts to address climate change.
Anna Arata, a spokeswoman for Shell, said in a statement that "we’re committed to playing our part" with regards to addressing climate change and that lawsuits "impede the collaboration needed for meaningful change." Shell set goal this year of achieving "net-zero" emissions by 2050.
Racine told reporters on Thursday that his office only learned of Minnesota's lawsuit when it was filed yesterday and had been preparing this long before.
Minnesota and DC's lawsuits are the latest in a string of legal challenges by states, cities, and citizen groups targeting fossil fuel companies over their role in global warming.
Counterparts in California, New York and Massachusetts also filed lawsuits against oil majors but the Minnesota and DC lawsuits focus on consumer protection.
Racine said the named companies "sought to create a false picture" about the environmental harm that fossil fuels cause, even as they "pivot their marketing efforts" to portray their products as clean.