At every turn, ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, ConocoPhillips, and Shell fought tooth and nail against the wave of lawsuits, arguing that the plaintiffs should look to the federal government, not the private sector, for financial assistance related to climate change. Now, a new investigation from InsideClimate News has revealed that the federal government has been working with some of those oil companies to oppose the wave of lawsuits.
Some 178 pages of emails between U.S. Department of Justice attorneys and industry lawyers — obtained by the Natural Resources Defense Council — show the government has been planning to come to the aid of these lawsuit-afflicted companies since early 2018. Not only did the DOJ work on an amicus — “friend of the court” — brief in support of major oil companies shortly after the San Francisco and Oakland lawsuits were filed, but the department was also working with Republican attorneys generals from 15 states to come up with a plan to help those companies. Department of Justice attorneys had several phone calls with lawyers defending BP, Chevron, Exxon, and other oil companies, and even met some of them in person.
Curiously, the Department of Justice did not reach out to the plaintiffs in the cases, like the cities of Oakland and San Francisco, to collaborate. The department’s environmental division, which bills itself as “the nation’s environmental lawyer,” opted to covertly work with industry groups rather than the communities it’s supposed to represent.
…“It’s very unusual for the federal government to be so aligned with industry on a damages case,” he said, particularly when the government isn’t implicated in the case. If the lawsuits were successful, oil companies, not the federal government, would be compelled to pay the damages.