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D.C. sues Exxon, BP, Shell, Chevron over climate

WASHINGTON – The District of Columbia sued Exxon Mobil and other large oil companies Thursday over their contribution to climate change, adding the nation’s capitol to a growing list of states seeking to punish the oil sector for its history of climate denial.

At a time large oil companies are increasingly vocal about the need to address climate change, the suit tackles a long period when despite warnings from their own scientists oil executives openly questioned claims greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels were warming the planet.

“For decades, these oil and gas companies spent millions to mislead consumers and discredit climate science in pursuit of profits,” said District Attorney General Karl Racine.

A spokesman for Exxon described the lawsuit, which also named Chevron, Shell and BP, as part of a “coordinated, politically motivated campaign against energy companies. A Shell spokesman questioned what state attorneys general hoped to gain.

“Addressing a challenge as big as climate change requires cooperation between all segments of society, not lawsuits that masquerade as climate action and impede the collaboration needed for meaningful change,” the Shell spokesman said.

Chevron did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and BP declined to comment.

The D.C. lawsuit comes a day after Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison filed suit against the industry, adding to a years-long litigation campaign by Democratic attorneys general.

The industry has managed to fight off claims that its climate denial represented an attempt to defraud its investors. In December a New York state judge ruled in favor of Exxon Mobil in a lawsuit brought by the New York Attorney General’s Office.

But with many states claiming oil companies should pay for public costs associated with climate change, such as fighting wildfires and the construction of sea walls to prevent flooding, the industry’s legal fight is far from over.

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