Time to wrap up the year in climate accountability

2019 was a wild ride. We’ll fill you in on the highlights.

This year was full of landmark moments in the fight to take Big Oil to task for our climate crisis. 

We laughed a lot, we celebrated, we definitely cried. EXXONKNEWS is here with the top moments for climate accountability in 2019. 

Starting with my personal favorite...

1) The House Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties held a hearing into the fossil fuel industry’s climate disinformation campaigns. Reps. Jamie Raskin, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley and others grilled a panel of witnesses and whistleblowers—including two former Exxon scientists—on what Big Oil knew about the disastrous impacts their products would cause, drilling down on the disproportionate consequences for low-income families and communities of color. And it was epic.

Image credit: Giphy

The hearing culminated in former Exxon scientist Martin Hoffert confirming that the catastrophic impacts of climate change now manifesting across the country were predicted by the company years ago, almost to a T: “We were excellent scientists,” he told lawmakers, adding that the company “deliberately created doubt” around the research he and other employees produced. No stunt from the Republicans’ one witness, former Trump appointee Mandy Gunasekara (famous for handing Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) a snowball on the Senate floor to “disprove global warming”), could distract from that one.

Image credit: Giphy

2) The Supreme Court rejected fossil fuel companies’ attempts to halt climate liability cases in Baltimore, Rhode Island, and three Colorado communities. The industry is trying to send these cases to federal court, where they have a greater chance of being dismissed. But that’s because, just like the asbestos, tobacco, and opioids suits, cases against fossil fuel companies for the damages caused by their products should proceed in state court. These are narrowly crafted public nuisance and other torts claims, and they demand that companies pay for the specific, local costs of climate change.

3) The City Council of Honolulu voted unanimously to sue Big Oil for rising costs to residents related to rising seas, warmer temperatures, and severe weather, and Maui mayor Michael Victorino committed to do the same. Honolulu and Maui will join 16 other entities seeking to hold the industry accountable for the price of repairing and rebuilding to accommodate a warming world.

4) Massachusetts AG Maura Healey filed a lawsuit against Exxon for defrauding both consumers and investors on the climate risks its business would unleash.

Here’s what the Attorney General said in a statement:

“Exxon has known for decades about the catastrophic climate impacts of burning fossil fuels—its chief product. Yet, to this day, Exxon continues to deceive Massachusetts consumers and investors about the dangerous climate harms caused by its oil and gasoline products and the significant risks of climate change—and efforts to address it—to Exxon’s business. We are suing to stop this illegal deception and penalize the company for its misconduct.”

5) New York State’s lawsuit against Exxon for investor fraud was dismissed, but the judge’s ruling left the door open for over a dozen lawsuits that directly address the industry’s deliberate role in the climate crisis.

6) The idea that polluters should pay for the costs of climate change—and be held accountable for their deception—entered presidential campaign plans and the debate stage for the first time this year. Bernie Sanders said that as President, he would criminally prosecute fossil fuel companies because they “lied and lied and lied when they had the evidence that their carbon products were destroying the planet.” Elizabeth Warren proposed a “corporate perjury” law in her campaign plans that would also hold companies criminally liable for intentionally misleading government agencies on the hazards their products would cause. Andrew Yang said he would “crack down on polluters” causing the climate crisis, and Corey Booker promised to “put people over polluters” in his plan for climate and environmental justice.

7) Last but not least, some great writers and journalists covered the rise of climate accountability and the continued influence of Big Oil’s deception on climate politics. For regular updates, we recommend you check out Drilled, a true-crime podcast by Amy Westervelt on the creation of climate denial; HEATED, a newsletter by Emily Atkin with original reporting on “the forces behind past and present inaction on the most existential threat of our time,” and Climate Liability News, a site for journalism on legal and other efforts to hold the fossil fuel industry accountable for climate crisis.

And of course, our very own EXXONKNEWS was born. Subscribe below if you haven’t!


ICYMI News Roundup

What a week it was…

Anger Into Action

2019 was big, but 2020 is going to be huge. It’s our New Year’s Resolution to keep the pressure on the fossil fuel industry. So we’re asking you: how can we keep Big Oil in the hot seat next year? What questions do you want to see on the debate stage? How do you want to show up for our planet and our future? Tweet @ExxonKnew with the hashtag #MyClimateResolution to let us know! We’ll include some of our favorites in our first issue of 2020.

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And that’s a wrap for 2019! We’re taking next week off for the holidays, but will be back and ready to go on January 3. Stick with us as we keep fighting the good fight in 2020. With knowledge and truth comes power, and the people are well on their way to reclaiming that.