Hoboken, N.J. Files Lawsuit to Hold API, ExxonMobil and Other Oil Cos. Accountable for Fraud, Climate Damages

Statements by Kathy Mulvey and Rachel Licker, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Sep 2, 2020

WASHINGTON—The City of Hoboken today filed a lawsuit in New Jersey state court against ExxonMobil and other oil and gas companies, as well as the American Petroleum Institute (API), alleging that in an effort to protect company profits, they intentionally misled consumers, investors and the general public about how their products contribute to climate change. The lawsuit also asks the court to order API and these fossil fuel companies to end their disinformation campaigns, provide relief for consumers, and be held accountable for their share of climate change related damages.

Roughly 70 percent of people living in Hudson County—where Hoboken is located—believe global warming is damaging their community and that fossil fuel companies are responsible and should pay their fair share, according to a June 2019 poll. Additionally, about two-thirds of people in the county support lawsuits against fossil fuel companies.

Below is a statement by Kathy Mulvey, fossil fuel accountability campaign director at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

“It’s important that ExxonMobil and other oil companies are held to account for the repeated and enduring lies they fed to consumers and investors, as well as the irreparable harm caused by their products. This case adds to the growing list of lawsuits brought by state and local governments that seek to hold fossil fuel companies accountable for their role in the climate crisis.

“The deception perpetrated against the public began as early as the 1960s, when the American Petroleum Institute—a named defendant and an organization to which all other named defendants belong—acknowledged the ‘catastrophic consequences’ of fossil fuel pollution. Not long after, ExxonMobil’s own scientists warned that continuing with the company’s existing business model would lead to more warming and significant harm.

“Fossil fuel company leaders have known about the climate dangers of their products for decades. Instead of changing their business practices, Big Oil companies invested millions in a disinformation campaign eerily similar to those used by Big Tobacco and Big Pharma. Their deceptive and pervasive messaging strategy centered around the false claim that there was no conclusive evidence linking human activities to climate change. Big Oil companies continue to distract people from the truth today by making paltry investments in clean energy solutions while keeping their businesses heavily focused on drilling, fracking and flaring that greatly endanger frontline communities.”

Below is a statement by Rachel Licker, senior climate scientist at UCS.

“The climate crisis is being felt all across the globe and Hoboken is not immune to its impacts. The city experienced back-to-back disasters with Hurricane Irene in 2011 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012, with the latter causing hundreds of millions in damage in Hoboken and a recovery effort that took years. According to a U.S. Climate Science Special Report, sea level rise resulting from human caused heat-trapping emissions made Hurricane Sandy’s storm surge more severe, exposing more people and property to its harms.

“Projections show things could get worse for Hoboken, which could see more than 12,000 homes, worth more than $6.7 billion collectively, at risk of chronic flooding by the century’s end. In addition to the growing risks posed by rising sea levels, the city is also expected to have to reckon with an alarming increase in days of extreme heat. Although the county where Hoboken is located has rarely experienced days when the heat index or ‘feels like’ temperature exceeded 100 degrees Fahrenheit, that number is projected to increase to 20 days per year on average by midcentury and to 43 by late century if we don’t take action on climate change. In fact, by late century some days could be so hot that the National Weather Service will be unable to reliably calculate the heat index. The discrimination faced by communities of color and low-income communities has often put them on the frontlines of climate change, leading them to bear the brunt of its impacts.

“The science linking fossil fuels to climate change is as settled as the connection between smoking and cancer and just like Big Tobacco, Big Oil needs to be held accountable in a court of law.”

Additional Resources:

  • For a compilation of 85 internal fossil fuel industry memos revealing a range of the industry’s deceptive tactics, including forged letters to Congress, secret funding of a supposedly independent scientist and the creation of fabricated grassroots organizations,  click here. 
  • To read the strategy that an American Petroleum Institute-organized group developed in 1998 to confuse the public, policymakers and the media about climate change by emphasizing “uncertainties” in climate science,  click here.
  • For more documents revealing the deceptive tactics that the fossil fuel and tobacco industries borrowed from one another to shape public opinion and policy discussions, see the Center for International Environmental Law’s  Smoke and Fumes database. 
  • See the 2018 UCS report “Underwater: Rising Seas, Chronic Floods, and the Implications for US Coastal Real Estate,” which found that more than $98 million in local property taxes could be at risk due to chronic inundation.
  • For more information on Hoboken’s climate impacts, see the UCS “Killer Heat” analysis, which quantifies the number of days of extreme heat Hudson County could experience by both midcentury and late century.