4 US senators urge Justice Department to sue fossil fuel firms

4 US senators urge Justice Department to sue fossil fuel firms

Lawmakers say companies carried out campaign of deception similar to that pursued by tobacco industry

By Michael Hernandez

WASHINGTON (AA) - A group of four Democratic senators called on Attorney General Merrick Garland Monday to pursue lawsuits against the fossil fuel industry "for its longstanding and carefully coordinated campaign" to deny climate change.

Sens. Bernie Sanders, Ed Markey, Jeff Merkley and Elizabeth Warren sent a letter to Garland in which they "strongly" urged him to pursue legal action against fossil fuel firms for a "longstanding and carefully coordinated campaign to mislead consumers and discredit climate science in pursuit of massive profits."

"The actions of ExxonMobil, Shell, and potentially other fossil fuel companies represent a clear violation of federal racketeering laws, truth in advertising laws, consumer protection laws, and potentially other laws, and the Department must act swiftly to hold them accountable for their unlawful actions," they wrote.

"The fossil fuel industry has had scientific evidence about the dangers of climate change and the role that burning fossil fuels play in increasing global temperatures for more than 50 years," the lawmakers added.

The campaign to discredit climate change research involved repression of internal data indicating that burning carbon would raise global temperatures and produce increasingly severe weather patterns, as well as spending millions of dollars to obscure the public's understanding of climate change, the senators said.

They pointed to warnings that the companies received as early as 1959 that emissions would result in rising global temperatures.

The letter comes as the US finds itself in the midst of extreme weather nationwide, from sweltering heat that is shattering records in the southwest, to fierce storms that have brought widespread flooding and powerful, damaging winds. The heat has also surpassed water temperature records off Florida's coast and in the North Atlantic.

The senators said precedent for suing the fossil fuel industry included a 2006 court ruling against the tobacco industry that found companies guilty of lying to consumers about the harms of their products.

"The fossil fuel industry’s illegal misinformation campaign bears striking resemblance to that of the tobacco industry for a reason—both industries have used the same public relations firms and researchers since the 1950s," they wrote.

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