Rhode Island Official Admits State’s Climate Lawsuit Is Meant To Wring Money Out Of Big Oil: Court Docs

From The Daily Caller

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Chris White Tech Reporter

March 13, 2020 1:31 PM ET

A Rhode Island official acknowledged in 2019 that the state’s climate lawsuit against Exxon Mobil is partially designed to secure a steady stream of income for the state, court documents show.

Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management Director Janet Coit told attendees at a meeting in New York that the state sued the industry to find a “sustainable funding stream,” nonprofit group Energy Policy Advocates noted in court documents filed Wednesday.

Energy Policy Advocates discovered a memo through a public information request that revealed handwritten notes from Carla Frisch of the Rocky Mountain Institute that show Coit complaining that her state’s General Assembly is refusing to take decisive action on climate change.

Energy Policy Advocates, a conservative nonprofit, filed an amicus brief Wednesday with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, the court responsible for adjudicating Rhode Island’s case against Exxon. The group says the memos it obtained suggest the case should be heard in federal court.

“This entry on its face represents a senior official confessing that Rhode Island’s climate litigation is in fact a product of Rhode Island’s elected representatives lacking enthusiasm for politically enacting policies, including revenue measures,” Energy Policy Advocates wrote in the court filing.

“(P)laintiffs seek to use the courts in this manner to seek billions of dollars in revenues, for distribution toward political uses and constituencies, raising of which is properly attempted through the political process,” Energy Policy Advocates added.

The nonprofit’s legal fight comes after Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin sued the energy industry in 2018, arguing oil companies are contributing to climate change. (RELATED: Rhode Island Joins AG Crusade To Blame Oil Companies For Climate Change)

Neither the Kilmartin’s office, Coit, nor the Rocky Mountain Institute have responded to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment about the nature of Energy Policy Advocates’ court filing or the documents the nonprofit obtained.

Rhode Island is among the several states and cities to take on Exxon in recent years with mixed results.

A federal judge in California threw out two lawsuits June 25 that sought to do effectively the same thing Rhode Island is trying to do now: punishing oil companies for supposedly hurting the environment.

San Francisco and Oakland were among a handful of California cities that sued Chevron in February for supposedly contributing to climate change. Boulder, Colorado, joined the climate lawsuit shortly thereafter, saying the company was partially to blame for wildfires.

Class action firm Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP handled San Francisco, Oakland and New York City’s lawsuit. Cities pay law firms no upfront cost in exchange for a percentage of any winnings or settlement.

Hagens Berman could have earned millions, possibly billions, of dollars in contingency fees depending on the total winnings had the cities won their case. All told, these three cities are asking oil companies to hand over many billions of dollars.

Hagens is not the only major law firm involved in such legal pursuits. Sher Edling is representing Rhode Island and Honolulu, which filed a similar lawsuit Tuesday against the energy industry.

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Joe Chang
March 14, 2020 2:25 pm

if a private entity had cause to get money from another, a lawsuit might be the remedy. If a state wants money, a lawsuit is stupid. just use legislation and tax

Bryan A
Reply to  Joe Chang
March 14, 2020 5:37 pm

Exxon-Mobile isn’t forcing anyone in Rhode Island to make use of the products they sell. Their is by choice of the citizens of the State. Same for New York and Hawaii. Don’t use the company… if your worry is Global Warming from the use of fossil fuels, stop using fossil fuel sourced energy.
Exxon isn’t the cause of the perceived problem, people using fossil sourced energy products is causing their perceived problem. Simply stop buying gasoline, oil, and fossil sourced energy.

March 14, 2020 2:31 pm

The results are hardly “mixed” Climatists are on a losing streak, but keep on court shopping hoping for a breakthrough from a judge more concerned about empathy than facts or the law. Honolulu is the latest to join the dash for cash by means of jackpot justice. But the dominos are falling down the wrong way for these lawyers so far.
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March 14, 2020 2:36 pm

You can’t prove something that hasn’t happened.

Ron Long
March 14, 2020 3:06 pm

One of these days the lawsuits will get to court, and we will get to see “Scopes Monkey Trial” all dolled up in a modern version. Same outcome, however. The losers pay court costs and attorney fees. Wait for it.

March 14, 2020 3:18 pm

When will they sue China for its massive CO2 emissions?

Reply to  Taphonomic
March 14, 2020 4:54 pm

…or for repartitions for the damage caused by Wuhan virus?

Tom Gelsthorpe
March 14, 2020 3:27 pm

The Rhode Island memos couched in legalistic gobbledygook reveal state officials attempting extortion from a company for something that hasn’t happened and whose cause couldn’t be pinpointed in any event. All because R. I. lacks the guts and/or the wherewithal to raise money honestly through taxation. R. I. is attempting to violate the takings clause in the 5th Amendment at the very least.

Can’t someone shag those officials for extortion?

Reply to  Tom Gelsthorpe
March 15, 2020 8:20 am

That might be possible via an abuse of process suit.

March 14, 2020 3:50 pm

Are the cities making these claims also partially responsible, using the same logic?
They built roads, which encouraged FF use.
Their emergency response tactics involve moving people and equipment in FF vehicles.
Their HVAC relies on FF.
Street lighting, traffic lights etc, all built on FF using tech.
Add others here…
Can Exxon et al sue the cities for inciting them to perform in an environmentally damaging way?
If you encourage certain behaviour by rewarding it, can you sue someone for actually doing what you encouraged?

Tom Gelsthorpe
Reply to  Kneel
March 14, 2020 8:14 pm

Good questions.

March 14, 2020 4:02 pm

No business plan is bad enough for a try, in so far a gouvernement is involved.

Rudolf Huber
March 14, 2020 4:04 pm

Whats climate? Give us all your cash and don’t ask any questions after. Politicians want more money – who is surprised now?

March 14, 2020 5:43 pm

To an outsider
this is more about the absurdity of the US legal system than about anything else

Tom Abbott
March 14, 2020 6:32 pm

What’s the role of the Leftwing Billionaires in all this?

March 14, 2020 6:33 pm

With a gas tax of 35¢ a gallon, the state of Rhode Island is the party with the greatest gain from fossil fuels.
If we were to assume the suit went for the AG, the state could be on the hook for a big chunk of the damages.
Based on nothing else, you have to wonder who the AG works for ..

March 14, 2020 6:34 pm

There are a number of legal concepts about misusing the system to harass a party or to gain a profit. partial list

After the fossil fuel companies have been unsuccessfully sued enough times, I wonder if there is some remedy by which they can avoid similar actions.

If a single litigant brought that many unsuccessful actions they would stand a good chance of being declared vexatious and their lawyer would stand a good chance of being disbarred.

March 14, 2020 6:45 pm

How is it that oil companies cannot present a defence that they engaged in the legal extraction and refinement of a product that was purchased by the plaintiffs and used according to their choice for great benefit. The emissions that they claim to be harmful were put into the atmosphere by the plaintiffs!
How is this not the easiest case to defend in history?

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  Roger Murphy
March 14, 2020 8:57 pm

The idea is to never get the case before a jury. You never know what might happen then.

Al Miller
March 14, 2020 7:44 pm

Why oh why don’t these so called governments stand up like big boys and girls and ban fossil fuels in their domain immediately and entirely- I would be most interested to watch the disaster that follows!

March 14, 2020 8:33 pm

Democrats have run RI since 1937. They’re weasels.

Reply to  Gary
March 14, 2020 9:29 pm

What gets me is that the size of many eastern liberal states are much smaller than the western more conservative states, (baring the left coast). Consequently, the senate has more of a chance at leaning left than right.

March 14, 2020 9:08 pm

“Ambulance chasing” (where lawyers go to accidents, by following dispatched ambulances, looking to sign up litigants) in comparison to US states joining legal attacks on oil companies almost seems innocent.

March 15, 2020 2:55 am

Exxon, should settle, but require Rhode Island pass regulation that all gas stations post a pie chart showing a breakdown who gets what per gallon or dollar of gas.

March 15, 2020 8:25 am

Gluttony one of the 7 deadly sins may not only apply to food but can be extended to an insatiable appetite for money. Or is it greed?

article: Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management Director Janet Coit told attendees at a meeting in New York that the state sued the industry to find a “sustainable funding stream,” nonprofit group Energy Policy Advocates noted in court documents filed Wednesday.

Finally a true definition of sustainable. And nonprofit group another name for anonym.

March 15, 2020 8:44 am

Rhode Island Official Admits State’s Climate Lawsuit Is Meant To Wring Money Out Of Big Oil

Well duh.

March 15, 2020 10:08 am

Someone help me out on the applicable law. When is it possible to sue a law firm that loses. I understand the logic of not suing a law firm that works for fees but when a firm works on a contingency basis they become one of the parties to the suit. Do they or can they pay costs when they lose.

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