The District of Columbia is planning to file a lawsuit against oil giant ExxonMobil for selling fossil fuel products without informing consumers about its effects on climate change.
Washington, D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine has sought outside legal counsel for a possible investigation and litigation against Exxon for potential fraud.
In a Twitter post on March 15, Racine called on the public to team up with his office for legal assistance in its efforts to fight those responsible for the climate change. He explained that since the 1970s the products of Exxon contributed significantly to climate change and exacerbated the environmental damage.
“However, despite this knowledge, in connection with selling gasoline to D.C. consumers and others, Exxon has failed to inform consumers about the effects of its fossil fuel products on climate change. Exxon has also engaged or funded efforts to mislead D.C. consumers and others on the impacts of climate change,” Racine said in the document. He added that the company’s conduct may have violated the local law, including the Consumer Protection Procedures Act, which prohibits “deceptive and unconscionable” business practices.
The legal work of attorney will be done on a contingency fee basis. The attorney will not be paid for the legal work unless their work leads to monetary award. The contracted firm could be paid up to $1 million if an award is granted.
According to the Office of the D.C. Attorney General, they would retain sole authority in the direction of the investigation. Municipalities, which are hired outside, will counsel to assist with the complex litigation.
A number of climate change-related lawsuits have been filed and investigations were initiated by attorneys generals earlier against Exxon. In July last year, the Rhode Island attorney general also filed a suit against the company and four other oil giants. The company was accused of knowingly contributing to climate change in the lawsuit, where it was alleged that it failed to adequately warn Rhode Island citizens about the risks posed by its products.
Another lawsuit was filed by New York in October last year. A lengthy investigation had found that the company had allegedly duped investors for years by deliberately playing down the risks posed to its business and long-term financial health.
There are also claims that Exxon kept Massachusetts shareholders in the dark about potential climate change-related risks to their investment which is now being investigated by the Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey.
As per climate scientist Virginia Burkett, who’s the chief scientist for the United States Geological Survey, D.C. has recorded a heat index of 105 degrees and now experiences such temperatures for 10 days per year. Burkett told the Washingtonian that the number is expected to triple by 2030.