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Three Things to Consider as Schneiderman-Healey Investigation Continues

In a 48-page decision, U.S. District Court Judge Valerie Caproni dismissed ExxonMobil’s lawsuit seeking an end to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey’s “bad faith” investigation into the company.  Ironically, in response to Judge Caproni’s decision, Schneiderman called the company’s lawsuit “frivolous” and “nonsensical”—two terms that the Manufacturers’ Accountability Project (MAP) and others have used to describe his very own investigation that has been in the courts for two years and has done nothing to address the shared challenge of climate change.

Three things to consider as the misguided Schneiderman-Healey investigation continues:

1: Litigation is costly and wastes time, and taxpayers are often left footing the bill.

In her decision, Judge Caproni comments that part of the reason she dismissed the lawsuit is because she felt the lawsuit “led to a sprawling litigation involving four different judges, at least three lawsuits, innumerable motions and a huge waste of the AGs time and money.”  Let’s not forget that an attorney general’s money is taxpayer money, and the attorneys general involved have had no problem putting it to use in pursing the baseless investigation in the first place. Additionally, “sprawling litigation” tends to be a common theme in a broader campaign seeking to undermine manufacturers. As Judge Alsup, a federal judge in California, recently commented in his decision to hear the San Francisco and Oakland cases in federal court, “A patchwork of fifty different answers to the same fundamental global issue would be unworkable.” The Schneiderman investigation is part of that expensive patchwork that politicians and plaintiffs’ attorneys are perpetuating. We need less litigation, not more.

2: AG Schneiderman continues to ignore certain securities discrepancies.

They can’t have it both ways. No jurisdiction that has filed a climate lawsuit against energy manufacturers warned investors of potential climate damages in their municipal bond offerings. But in the litigation, they are taking the opposite position; public officials have stated with certainty that their locality will have monetary damages directly related to climate change. Failing to accurately disclose risk to investors leaves these public officials open to investigations of their own, yet Schneiderman has shown no concern for those discrepancies.

3: New York is investigating and suing the very companies it will rely on to address climate change.

According to the New York City climate lawsuit, damages won through legal pursuits would go toward funding the OneNYC plan, which in part provides guidance on how the city will become more sustainable.  Among the options to reduce emissions in the city, the plan will provide support for building owners to convert from traditional heating oils to lower-sulfur heating oil and cleaner-burning natural gas. Many of the same companies Schneiderman and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio are suing are the very companies they plan to rely on to implement their plan.

At the end of the day, these lawsuits are misguided and a waste of resources leaving New Yorkers with little more than distracted public officials.