After three years, and millions of wasted taxpayer dollars to satisfy left-leaning political constituencies, the lawsuit by the New York attorney general (AG) against ExxonMobil did not succeed. According to the New York AG, ExxonMobil allegedly deceived its investors by obscuring the actual costs of climate change on its financial disclosures. So it came as a surprise when the New York AG Letitia James – who inherited this lawsuit – significantly altered the state’s legal challenge to ExxonMobil by dropping all but one claim against the energy company at the eleventh hour in closing arguments. Municipalities in California are following a similar course by pursuing climate litigation, and state policymakers should ask themselves is it damaging voter trust?

This glorified fishing expedition, highlights concerns about the broad power afforded the New York AG’s office through the Martin Act, which enables it to pursue vague investigations against companies with little to no justification. 

This act allows the state AG wide latitude to bring investigations or lawsuits without proof of criminal wrongdoing or intent. This has made the Martin Act a breeding ground for advancing baseless, politically motivated litigation. The law obscures the standard legal norms and protections that would be afforded to a defendant in any other state, and California is following this same legal course with no legislative obligation or judicial oversight.

Public policymaking morphs into the ability to intimidate businesses simply to meet political ends. The meandering ExxonMobil investigation, and now, the watering down of the state’s legal challenge, precisely illustrates these problems. 

More concerning is the fact that regardless of the court’s decision or any domestic court, the lawsuit does nothing to reduce the impact of climate change. When over 6,000 daily-used products and our everyday existence depend on oil and natural gas, this courtroom charade will never move us off fossil fuels. Instead the answer to a cleaner environment that enhances economic growth is natural gas. 

Abundant natural gas from the U.S. is changing the world in ways that will never happen in climate depositions or rigged courtrooms.  Coal-fired generation dropped 40% in the U.S. from 2008-2017 replaced by natural gas; a cheaper and cleaner fuel for electricity generation. U.S. natural gas exports also have the ability to create millions of great-paying jobs through a robust trade-centric supply chain.  

This should be a cautionary tale for California. Meritless cases only serve to drive up taxpayer costs and dry up scarce state financial resources that be used more productively, reduce carbon, and help the environment.

Equally frustrating is the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) examined climate-impropriety by ExxonMobil just last year, and found no evidence of fraud by the company. 

With the final verdict arriving in early December, and nothing accomplished to fight rising global emissions and electrical grid instability in California, fruitless show trials in California, New York, and Massachusetts emphasize there is a better way to fight pollution, and reduce GHG emissions while growing the workforce, and reducing energy costs. Unfortunately, California bases energy policy on chaotically intermittent, and unstable wind and solar farms for energy to electricity. Both renewables are inferior considering that wind farms take 700 times more land than natural gas to produce an equal amount of energy. 

Natural gas can fuel California, the U.S., and the world while lowering emissions, and bringing peace and prosperity. These global environmental benefits are fruit of the very companies that are beleaguered by climate depositions via activist AGs.  Unsubstantiated litigation against companies on the front lines of the fight to reduce carbon impedes not only the wellbeing of Americans, but people across the globe.