Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison has filed a lawsuit against the American Petroleum Institute, Exxon Mobil, and Koch Industries (“Ellison files lawsuit against fossil fuel giants for 'campaign of deception' on climate change,” June 24). He claimed they caused “devastating economic and public-health consequences,” citing their supposed carbon emissions and “campaign of deception.”
Ellison’s lawsuit isn’t grounded in fact, however. It’s a replay of suits against energy providers that have already failed in other courts and jurisdictions. His move appears to have more to do with a partisan political agenda than good public policy.
Ellison’s lawsuit treats these energy providers like the bad actors in the tobacco industry. He pretends that the science is already settled on what he categorizes as the “severe environmental and social consequences” of carbon emissions. That’s far from the case. He should know that.
Ellison’s complaint states the world has warmed by 2 degrees Fahrenheit due to human-caused climate change. Let’s be clear: That 2-degree number is not proven, according to the Global Warming Policy Foundation. Second, the role that human beings and their use of hydro-carbon fuels have played in any change is even more tenuous.
The AG apparently believes these companies should be held liable for making claims that run contrary to what some scientists have projected, when we know that other scientists have challenged these estimates.
This month, one former climate alarmist made a public apology for claims he had previously made. A recent CATO Institute study found that over 100 of the climate models used by government climate scientists between 1950 to 2015 dramatically over-predicted warming rates. Still, Ellison attempts to build a case against these companies because they disagreed with these increasingly flawed models and forecasts.
Ellison’s job as the state’s chief legal officer is to uphold and enforce the law objectively. He represents all Minnesotans. He hasn’t found much time to prosecute rioters and those who defaced statues on the state Capitol grounds. So why is he devoting so much staff time to suing companies that supply much-needed energy to Minnesota?
Interestingly, according to the Washington Times, two of the four attorneys on the Minnesota complaint are from a New York University fellowship program — and that program received $5.6 million in funding from the Bloomberg Family Foundation to support “defending and promoting clean energy, climate and environmental laws and policies.” Coincidentally, they hold the titles of “Special Assistant Attorney General” in the office and have official state email addresses. They received these titles despite their salaries being paid by the Bloomberg-supported fellowship program.
Several other similar climate-change lawsuits filed by these fellows have already been thrown out by federal judges, according to Legal Newsline. In New York, a judge stated that “the scope of plaintiffs’ theory is breathtaking” and asked a critical question: “Would it really be fair to now ignore our own responsibility in the use of fossil fuels and place the blame for global warming on those who supplied what we demanded?” Other opinions have also ruled that the courts are not the proper venue to address climate policy.
Minnesota continues to rely on hydrocarbon fuels. According to the Energy Information Administration, about 30% of all U.S. crude imports flow through the North Star State. Coal and natural gas generate over 60% of the state’s electricity. How can this frivolous lawsuit do anything but waste taxpayers’ money and drive up the price of energy?
All Minnesotans want a cleaner environment. It’s hard to see how suing energy providers will make anything better, especially when there appears to be no legal leg for the attorney general to stand on. It gets cold here in Minnesota. Farmers, consumers, and small businesses need access to affordable energy. We have seen a dramatic 16.5% organic increase in electric power generation from 2007 to 2017, according to the Minnesota Commerce Department. Wind alone cannot carry the load. We need an all-of-the-above energy policy.
Filing expensive, frivolous lawsuits will solve nothing.
Gil Gutknecht was the Republican representative of Minnesota’s First Congressional District from 1995 to 2007. The district south of the Twin Cities includes the cities of Mankato and Rochester. He served as vice chair of the Science Committee and chaired the House Ag Committee that oversaw renewable energy programs. He wrote this exclusively for the News Tribune.