Municipalities of Puerto Rico v. Exxon Mobil, Part 1

From the Gelbspan Files

Russell Cook

What can I say about this latest November 22, 2022 filing? Oh, …… brother.

It is filled with so many faulty assertions and accusations that I’ll have to split it into two parts. It was filed by a law firm that seems to have no significant prior connections to the climate issue and thus is categorized in my big list as the 6th “independently-led” one. But is it really? To borrow the words of one TV actor playing Sherlock Holmes, “there is not enough facts available to arrive at a conclusion” as to whether this law firm had major assistance from the Sher Edling law firm’s boilerplate copy template (shared in basic form throughout all of its 16 filings), or if it simply blatantly plagiarized from those lawsuits while slathering on its hugely problematic additional accusatory content.

One of the odd things about this November 22 filing by the Tennessee-headquartered Milberg Coleman Bryson Phillips Grossman, LLC law firm (an apparently new player in the “Exxon Knew” lawsuits show) is how the six days-later press release for it and a subsequent Reuters news item were noting how this was a “first-of-its-kind lawsuit seek[ing] financial compensation from oil and coal companies for marketing and selling carbon-based products that they intentionally misrepresented to the public.”

Ummmm ……. no. Just … no. Every one of these “Exxon Knew” lawsuits, in one variant or another, claims the fossil fuel industry knew the use of their products caused the harm of catastrophic global warming as they created disinformation campaigns to hide what they knew, with the ultimate goal being to be able to declare — as revealed in secret industry memos — “victory will be achieved when we reposition global warming as theory rather than fact.” That’s basically it; some lawsuits inexplicably never mentioned the “reposition global warming memos” even though those appeared to be more viable evidence than the much more lame “victory will be achieved” ‘truism’ memos. There’s really nothing new at all in this latest Puerto Rico filing, apart from its approach to the basic accusation surrounding those two memo sets, which I’ll detail in Part 2. The plaintiffs allege coordinated racketeering. Supported by supported by excerpts from industry communications, no less. Problem is, who are the real racketeers in the “Exxon Knew” show?

In this Part 1, I’ll illustrate how the sentences and related content in this new one surrounding the two memo sets is troublingly similar – when not outright identical – to what’s in the Sher Edling #16 lawsuit, Platkin v Exxon and that firm’s other copies, similar to the way I showed how that one shared its material with prior Sher Edling copies.

✓ Enslavement to ye olde “Reposition global warming”memos — Check. The never-implemented ones falsely attributed to the Western Fuels Association (WFA) “Information Council for the Environment” 1991 public relations campaign. At least the Platkin filing gets the official one-and-only ICE name right. Puerto Riconot so much. The Sher Edling lawsuits repeat the main “reposition global warming” section from one state/city/municipality to the next. Give the Milberg law firm some credit for not having identical text surrounding their accusation – they rewrite that accusation, putting the bit about “older, less educated men” into a different paragraph, and they bring back the never-implemented audience targeting phrase about “younger, lower-income women,” which has been absent in Sher Edling copies after its 2017 Imperial Beach filing (same phrase Al Gore loved so much back in 1992, by the way). What’s essentially the same in this overall ICE memos paragraphs for these two separate firms? Every Sher Edling filing cites the Union of Concerned Scientists’ “Deception Dossiers.” Identical situation, for the Milberg firm.

✓ What to see where this Milberg Puerto Rico filing is nearly nearly word-for-word identical with the Sher Edling copies concerning the ICE campaign allegations, but where Milberg adds three words? It’s those “ICE ads” — Check – the ones I described in my dissection of Platkin, the horribly degraded photocopy scans from Greenpeace, where two of the ads, “Chicken Little” and “Doomsday Canceled” have an ICE name variant that was unsolicited. No need to look into the scan copies I saved from Greenpeace years back, the Milberg law firm itself shows the unsolicited name variant in one of the ads, when you zoom way into their filing page 111. They crop the bottom of the other ad, though. Where have we seen such cropping before? Oh, right, the problematic “Chicken Little” detail I first pointed out in my dissection of Sher Edling’s San Mateo/Marin/Imperial Beach v Chevron filings trio. Both of these ads were never published anywhere. But while the other one, “Most Serious Problem,” was inexplicably and basically disingenuously cropped by the Sher Edling firm, the Milberg firm includes* the basically impossible to read text … and shuffles the order of the images.

* (Rather than add any helpful, damaging clarity to the ICE ads situation, the Milberg firm only joins a hole-digging effort started by UCS back in 2015, and technically also the Sher Edling law firm. Where does the Milberg firm say the full image “Most Serious Problem” ad and the others source from? It’s actually unclear. The filing’s prior page footnote #363 is actually for a cryptic “May 7, 1991 correspondence from E. Erie to O. Mark DeMchele,” having no source. It could be a typo that was meant for the supra of UCS, which is #364 citing page 20 of the UCS Dossiers that doesn’t mention the ICE ads. UCS’ page 19 does, showing no illustrations of the ads, instead describing a “Flat Earth” ad that (likely sourced from Desmogblog’s copy of Naomi Oreskes’ 2008-era Powerpoint presentation) – was never published in any newspaper. Not stated in UCS’ Dossiers compilation cited by Milberg, but seen elsewhere at UCS – namely their PDF files links – is the Pandora’s Box that this Milberg Puerto Rico filing inadvertently opens up for the Sher Edling firm with their “correspondence from E. Erie to O. Mark DeMchele” bit. That’s seen within their ICE docs scans PDF file, where in its PDF page 41, Milberg’s “E. Erie to O. Mark DeMchele is actually Arizona Public Service’s De Michele and Edison Electric’s Bill Brier — as proven in UCS’ page 35. Meanwhile, the aforementioned “Most Serious Problem” newspaper ad is seen in UCS’ PDF page 47 with text at the bottom. So the simple question is, when Sher Edling featured those identical ad scans, from 2017’s San Mateo v Chevron to 2022’s Platkin v Exxon sourced out of the same UCS PDF file …. why did they choose to crop the ad text out of the “Most Serious Problem” ad? On top of all that, why didn’t either law firm provide a link to the ad in its full newspaper-published context where readers could zoom into the text and decide for themselves whether the ads contained sinister disinformation? I do.)

But, I digress. Meanwhile, onward in the 16 Sher Edling boilerplate copy filings / Milberg Puerto Rico comparison:

✓ Reference to the “Richard Lawson” memo separated by two or less paragraphs from the “reposition global warming” memos, e.g. in Honolulu v Sunoco, which begs for trouble with its citation of Naomi Oreskes. And in Milberg Puerto RicoAlmost nearly identical — Check. By the way, who else looks nearly identical to this? The supposedly “independently-led City of Hoboken v Exxon filing. How ’bout that?

✓ Enslavement to ye olde 1998 American Petroleum Institute (API) “victory will be achieved” memos — Check. This set, despite being a set of basic truisms that could be mirror-flipped to suit Greenpeace, are so beloved that even two members of “the Squad” love them, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Ilhan Omar (D-Mn). In the Sher Edling pile, the’ve been enslaved to that set, again, from San Mateo to Platkin, and even the Minnesota v API lawsuit they are supposedly just assisting has it. In their boilerplate copies, they cite an innocuous-looking “document cloud” weblink which, with just a slight change in the elements of the web address, turns out to be a document upload from Kert Davies when he worked at Greenpeace. MN v API just skips that middleman effort and directly cites Davies’ ClimateFiles page. This Milberg Puerto Rico filing is not merely also enslaved to the “victory will be achieved” memos, they’ve turned it into a literal Federal case (hold onto that collective thought until my Part 2 dissection). This filing doesn’t regurgitate words practically verbatim about these memos, but they do dig a really huge hole for themselves when they don’t say at all what their source is for the API memos is, and when they make the hugely troubling statement “Retyped for clarity.” Gosh, whatever could be wrong with the lousy scan copies the Sher Edling filings were provided with, or the source of those scans?

✓ AG Platkin’s reference to a particular narrative about ‘Big Oil’ bankrolling climate scientists Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas, e.g. in Charleston v Brabham Oil. Milberg Puerto RicoIdentical — Check, but with more RICO conspiracy-angled words. Identical cited material about Soon and Baliunas — Check, but with alternative web links. By the way, who else looks nearly identical to this? The supposedly “independently-led “Vermont v. Exxon” filing. No joke, which provides exactly zero citation sources for any of its assertions.

✓ One more, to emphasize the point, on a shared document – beginning to current end, from San Mateo to Platkin – that I spotted but haven’t previously pointed to in my dissections of the 16 Sher Edling boilerplate copies: 2017 San Mateo Joseph Carlson Exxon doc / 2022 Platkin Joseph Carlson doc, each going to the identical innocuous-looking “documentcloud” source for the memo. Milberg Puerto Rico? Reworded a bit, but nevertheless included — Check. But Milberg Puerto Rico skirts the hidden middleman and directly cites Kert Davies’ Climate Files page. It’s the same document, down to the inverted “University of Texas at Austin” label. Again, the Milberg firm stirs trouble by prompting the question of why Sher Edling seems to hide who their docs source is part of the time – the same source they acknowledged elsewhere, who has worthless docs in his scans pile? Oh, wait, who else already stirred trouble over two years ago about the Sher Edling firm not exactly being fully transparent in this “Joseph Carlson Exxon doc” situation? Why, the supposedly independent Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel LLP and Krovatin Nau LLC law firms, since they eliminated the same “documentcloud” middleman in their Hoboken v Exxon filing. Who else has the Carlson memo? The supposedly “independently-led Connecticut v. Exxon” filing … which provides exactly zero citation sources for any of its assertions. How ’bout that?

See the big problem here, overall? Who is it that’s overseeing / writing / back-room promoting / coordinating these lawsuits that are built entirely on “Exxon Knew” about global warming since the ’70s (but not about cooling) and literally worthless documents purporting expose how fossil fuel executives hid this by repositioning global warming facts as ‘disinformation theory’ and felt ‘victorious’ doing so?

Do we really have a “wave” of #ExxonKnew lawsuits, practically a doubling of communities suing Big Oil …. or could this whole pile be consolidated into one giant single lawsuit titled “John Passacantando, Kert Davies, et al. [dba Greenpeace USA née Ozone Action / Our Next Economy / CIC] v. Exxon & any other applicable energy companies”?
Stay tuned for Part 2: “The Coal Defendants’ publicity plan called for placing these three scientists, along with fellow climate change denier S. Fred Singer … in broadcast appearances, op-ed pages, and newspaper interviews by its public relations firm.” Oops. (Two questions: Isn’t there some kind of law against knowingly making false statement with malice or with reckless regard of whether it was true or false? And has any plaintiff ever won a Federal case when their attorneys cite Wikipedia as an evidence source?)

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December 24, 2022 11:05 pm

Evidence? Documents? Sources?
Doesn’t it really just depend on which judge they are able to get?

Reply to  AndyHce
December 25, 2022 6:25 am

Ask Kari Lake?…

Dave Fair
Reply to  AndyHce
December 25, 2022 9:46 am

The judge doesn’t matter. SCOTUS will ultimately unravel the CliSciFi scam.

Reply to  Dave Fair
December 25, 2022 11:13 am

That depends on how many justices Biden gets to put on the bench.

December 24, 2022 11:51 pm

Well, I would say today we all know more than Exxon knew back then.
And I jsut stubled over the APS climate statement, which is vague in some part and tried to comfort the alarmists in others:

“While anthropogenic climate change has not been unambiguously detected, the evidence for a human effect on climate is mounting. The surface temperature of the earth has risen by about half a degree centigrade over the last century. This rate of change is similar in magnitude to natural climate changes but also well within the range of the possible effects of the historical rise in greenhouse gas concentrations.”

I think the whole text is worth reading for anyone.
And in context nothing of the current knowledge seems to allow to sue anybody over it. 40 years back the knowledge was MUCH more lacking! For example there was basically no temperature measurements over the volume of the oceans, that started with ARGO in 2000

Tom Abbott
Reply to  morfu03
December 25, 2022 1:32 pm

Exxon didn’t know then, and they don’t know now.

Nobody on Earth knew then, and nobody on Earth knows now.

There is no evidence CO2 is affecting Earth’s weather or climate.

“Exxon Knew” is absurd.

Reply to  Tom Abbott
December 27, 2022 2:21 pm

If Exxon knew, being the evil geniuses that they were, they would have initiated a scare campaign and invested in solar, windmills, carbon capture & mitigation schemes. They would have cornered the market; Al Gore & other profiteers (Obama etal.) would have been picking up the crumbs rather than getting the first draw payment.

Last edited 2 months ago by DonM
December 25, 2022 2:07 am

So, this latest test of Einstein’s definition of madness appears to confirm it – yet again

Ron Long
December 25, 2022 3:03 am

Tennessee Law Firm litigating over “Exxon Knew” nonsense? Here’s a little Cold Reality: the predicted high today for Nashville, Tennessee is -2 deg C.

Dave Fair
December 25, 2022 9:39 am

The entire basis of the lawsuit: Damages due to the September hurricane plus ongoing, damaging climate change in PR are all caused by FF production and consumption.

After a whole bunch of legal fees and public posturing/propaganda, the above cannot be proven in an impartial court of law. None of the pile of words presented in this posting has anything to do with the outcome of the case. {Sorry, trying to wade through Russell Cook’s rambling and disjointed screed has simply irritated me.}

Last edited 2 months ago by Dave Fair
Russell Cook
Reply to  Dave Fair
December 25, 2022 3:06 pm

I phrase things lousily sometime. Have your lawyers talk to my lawyers about that. Meanwhile, you may not have noticed if you fixate solely on the one science-only front of the two-front AGW war, but in addition to science proclamations, the Gore/Oreskes side says Big Oil not only “knew” but colluded with skeptic climate scientists in disinformation campaigns designed to hide what they “knew,” and the cornerstone evidence for that accusation in nearly all of the current U.S. “#ExxonKnew” lawsuits is the pair of ‘leaked memos’ sets known as the “reposition global warming” memos and the separate, unrelated API “victory will be achieved” memos. Neither were ever implemented anywhere, the former was an unsolicited proposal rejected by the group it was proposed to. By default, nether is evidence that industry-orchestrated disinformation campaigns happened – mere proposals by themselves are not evidence that plans were carried out from those proposals. Without evidence proving any disinformation campaigns happened, the cases collapse around the accusation that deliberate efforts were made to deceive the public.

The ‘pile of words’ in my guest post here, including the clickable links to screencaptures backing up what I illustrate, are central to the outcome of the case, regarding whether the plaintiffs lawyers can prove the argument that “… that the groups [sic – group’s] objectives to ‘reposition global warming as a theory’ were pure propaganda, not based in science. Patrick Michaels, Robert Balling and Sherwood B. Idso all lent their names in 1991 to its scientific advisory panel.” When that accusation crashes & burns from a lack of evidence to prove it (because that’s all any one of these cases have in their arsenal), down goes the whole accusation that any fossil fuel entity paid skeptic scientists to lie, and thus down goes the notion that “Exxon Knew and Deceived the Public.”

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Russell Cook
December 26, 2022 3:31 am

“The groups [sic – group’s] objectives to ‘reposition global warming as a theory’ were pure propaganda, not based in science”

Global warming catastrophe perpetrated by CO2 IS a theory. And it has not been established as fact. Saying so is not propaganda and IS based on science.

Exxon was practicing common sense, not propaganda.

It’s the Alarmists who are perpetrating the propaganda about CO2.

Reply to  Tom Abbott
December 26, 2022 10:54 am

” ….. IS a theory.”

I thought it is still just a hypthesis and not progressed to being a theory yet.

Russell Cook
Reply to  Oldseadog
December 27, 2022 8:13 pm

Never lose sight of one hugely critical overarching detail, however, on what’s seen in the Puerto Rico v Exxon lawsuit: the “reposition global warming as theory rather than fact” phrase is not just some generic utterance by the AGW mob, it is a weapon they aim at skeptic climate scientists by saying it was directive mandated by Big Coal/Oil executives when they put skeptic climate scientist ‘shills’ on their payroll to spew material that both the executives and the ‘shill scientists’ knew was false. Al Gore spelled out that phrase full screen in red letters in his 2006 movie and then directly compared it to a notorious and hugely ill-advised sinister tobacco industry memo. The accusation surrounding that “reposition global warming” phrase may be one of the biggest acts of libel/slander in history. The alarmists are not only perpetrating ‘science’ propaganda about CO2, they are also hurling political accusation propaganda they have no hopes of proving.

Reply to  Dave Fair
December 26, 2022 5:09 pm

I am not so easily irritated.

Russell Cook
Reply to  juanslayton
December 27, 2022 10:23 am

Thank you for your support! Not the first time in WUWT comment sections that I’ve run across “Dave Fair” solely criticizing my writing style. I appreciate constructive criticism; everyone benefits from succinct communication. But when a fellow like him expresses open hostility about my words while also implying “nothing to see here, move along…” more than once about details I show of defamation efforts aimed at skeptic scientists, it looks ….. well, to put it politely, …. suspect.

December 25, 2022 3:42 pm

I cannot follow this–way too inside baseball.

Can you just state the major claims and what is new here? Most of the readers can take it from there.

Also, look forward to the defendant’s response.

Russell Cook
Reply to  Robbradleyjr
December 26, 2022 11:15 am

This lawsuit claims Big Oil not only “knew” the burning of their products caused global warming but they also colluded – in racketeering fashion – with skeptic climate scientists in disinformation campaigns designed to hide what they ‘knew’ and deceive the public that there is no harm from AGW. The cornerstone evidence for that is the pair of ‘leaked memos’ sets known as the “reposition global warming” memos and the separate, unrelated API “victory will be achieved” memos. Neither were ever implemented anywhere, and therefore cannot serve as evidence proving industry-led disinformation campaigns exist.

There is nothing new within this lawsuit that hasn’t been already regurgitated about those worthless memos in the other current 26 U.S. #ExxonKnew” lawsuits dating back to 2017. That’s my entire point. These lawsuits hurl political accusations potentially straying into epic defamation territory that they cannot possibly support.

The dilemma I face is this: If I boil it down to two paragraphs or less, the reply will be, “Oh, yeah? Good luck proving that.” When I do, as seen in my GelbspanFiles blog and in reposts here at WUWT, the response is, “I cannot follow that–way too inside baseball.” The problem with the latter response is that most people don’t take it from there, leaving them flat-footed in the face of any AGW’er who hurls any variant of the Gore-Oreskes-Gelbspan accusation, because most AGW skeptics have never heard of Ross Gelbspan’s accusation or Al Gore’s enslavement to it, and have no clue that Naomi Oreskes built her second career around the Gore-Gelbspan “reposition global warming memos” accusation. Tell me, did you know any of this before? If I had only guest-posted just the two paragraphs above, would you have really “taken it from there“? If so, how?

Don’t hold your breath waiting for defendants to say a word about the accusations within this latest lawsuit. Arch Resources (formerly Arch Coal), for example, bends themselves into pretzel shapes singing the praises of ESG.

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