Tag Archives: exxon

‘Coal knew’ — investigation shows that the coal industry knew about climate change since 1966

A 2015 exposé by journalists at InsideClimate News, the LA Times, and Columbia University revealed that Exxon Mobil scientists performed experiments and conducted models in the 1970s that showed greenhouse emissions would trigger climate change. Despite their memos, Exxon’s leadership minimized the findings and would later invest hundreds of millions in front groups that denied the link between CO2 emissions and the climate emergency.

Now, a new investigation by the Huffington Post shows that the other side of the fossil fuel industry, namely coal, also had early insight into the association between the product of their business and global warming.

Documents obtained by the Post’s Élan Young showed that prominent coal industry members knew about the climate-altering effects of massive amounts of CO2 dumped into the atmosphere from as early as 1966. Like Exxon, coal companies not only hid this information but actively fought to manipulate the public opinion into thinking otherwise. In some cases, the lobby and coal-sponsored front groups would employ rhetoric that claimed CO2 emitted by coal-related activities was actually beneficial to the environment — believe it or not.

An article in the 1966 issue of the Mining Congress Journal noted that rising greenhouse gases emitted by coal activities could lead to changes in the climates of the earth. Credit: Chris Cherry.


Young draws attention to a 1966 article in the Mining Congress Journal, a coal industry publication, authored by James R. Garvey, who at the time was the president of Bituminous Coal Research Inc., a now-defunct coal research organization.

“There is evidence that the amount of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere is increasing rapidly as a result of the combustion of fossil fuels,” wrote Garvey. “If the future rate of increase continues as it is at the present, it has been predicted that, because the CO2 envelope reduces radiation, the temperature of the earth’s atmosphere will increase and that vast changes in the climates of the earth will result.” 

“Such changes in temperature will cause melting of the polar icecaps, which, in turn, would result in the inundation of many coastal cities, including New York and London,” he continued.

In other words, this is a fairly accurate description of modern climate science findings, which draw a strong link between man-made greenhouse emissions and temperature rise.

In the same journal, James R. Jones, a Peabody Coal engineer, notes that the coal industry was merely “buying time”.

“We are in favor of cleaning up our air,” he wrote. “Everyone can point to examples in his own community where something should be done. Our aim is to have control that does not precede the technical knowledge for compliance.”

Just like Exxon scientists decades go, these 1960s coal industry representatives were straightforward about the reality and perils of climate change. The stakes weren’t so high for these company’s shareholders at the time and once it became apparent that regulations meant to dent emissions — and by extension, their business — the coal industry engaged in intentional lobbying and campaigning meant to monkey-wrench climate action.

Peabody Energy, the largest coal producer in the United States, has funded dozens of front groups that misrepresent climate science in order to polarize the public and delay climate action. They even went as far as spreading lies that borderon insanity.

“While the benefits of carbon dioxide are proven, the alleged risks of climate change are contrary to observed data, are based on admitted speculation, and lack adequate scientific basis,” the company wrote in a letter in 2015 to the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

Following Exxon Mobil’s internal memo leak, showing that the oil giant had information that its activities were contributing to climate change for decades, twenty state attorneys general filed 14 legal challenges against Exxon.

The first lawsuit, filed by the New York state attorney general’s office, went to trial on October 22. ExxonMobil is accused of defrauding shareholders and the public because of misrepresenting how carbon regulation would affect the company’s financial outlook in the future. The fraud cost investors as much US$1.6 billion, the attorney general’s office alleges.

In its defense, Exxon says the lawsuit is politically motivated and driven by anti-fossil fuel activists. The company says it was honest with shareholders about how it calculated carbon costs, dismissing any wrongdoing.

“The New York Attorney General’s allegations are false,” Steven Soper of Exxon’s Corporate Media Relations said to PBS. “We tell investors through regular disclosures how the company accounts for risks associated with climate change. We are confident in the facts and look forward to seeing our company exonerated in court.”

Whether or not representatives of the coal industry, such as Peabody, might face similar consequences remains to be seen, although the parallels are striking. And, like Exxon, the coal industry knew that its product would cause climate change and has tried its best to hide this fact.

In any event, a major fraud investigation against coal representatives could be like a final nail in the industry’s coffin. For years, coal has been tanking despite the Presidential Administration’s promises of revival. In 2016, Peabody Energy filed for bankruptcy. Alpha Natural Resources, the second biggest coal company in the US, filed for bankruptcy along with other smaller firms in 2015.

Why Exxon is on trial in the US

It’s only the second climate change trial in the US but its consequences could be big. Oil and gas giant ExxonMobil is at court, accused of defrauding shareholders and the public because of misrepresenting how carbon regulation would affect the company’s financial outlook in the future.

Credit Wikipedia Commons

The trial, which could last three weeks, will debate whether material damage occurred as a result of Exxon’s deceptions. Regardless of the verdict, Exxon is likely to come out an overall loser. The state has accessed a wealth of documents showing how the corporation conducts business, and allegedly mislead and defrauded investors.

“If the investors had known what the real cost of climate change regulations would be, they might not have invested in Exxon,” Patrick Parenteau, a professor of law and senior counsel in the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic at Vermont Law School, said in a statement to PBS

Looking back

The case goes back to 2015 when stories by InsideClimate News and the Los Angeles Times found that while Exxon’s scientists were inwardly researching climate change to plan its operations, the company was outwardly casting doubt on global warming.

Those reports spurred investigations in New York and Massachusetts, which just filed its own suit. “There’s nothing wrong with advocating for your own company. What you’re not allowed to do is commit fraud,” then-New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman told PBS NewsHour.

The case is before the New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan and is being prosecuted by Letitia James, who was elected state attorney general last year. New York argues that Exxon used two different ways to calculate carbon costs and wasn’t clear when it was using one or the other.

The fraud cost investors as much US$1.6 billion, the attorney general’s office alleges. Former US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was the CEO of ExxonMobil from 2006 to 2016, during the years in question, and will testify in the trial, according to a company attorney.

A number of oil firms assume future climate policies like a carbon tax or market will come into play, and they build that “price” into their analysis of whether fossil fuel projects can make money or not. Exxon said it priced carbon at US$80 per ton for all of its projects, which is much more aggressive than the current carbon pricing mechanism. Internally, the company priced carbon much lower.

In New York’s 91-page complaint, the state cites a number of ways Exxon misguided investors, particularly by grossly underestimating how much it would cost to extract oil from 14 oil sand projects in Alberta, Canada — one the largest oil reserves on Earth. Exxon lowballed these costs by a whopping US$25 billion, argued the state.

“Exxon provided false and misleading assurances that it is effectively managing the economic risks posed to its business by the increasingly stringent policies and regulations that it expects governments to adopt to address climate change,” the state wrote in a complaint last year.

That would be a violation of a New York statute known as the Martin Act, which grants the state’s attorney general the authority to pursue investigations and actions against those it suspects of securities fraud. It’s the same law that has been used by previous attorneys general in the state to bring charges against big financial firms.

Exxon says the lawsuit is politically motivated and driven by anti-fossil fuel activists. The company says it was honest with shareholders about how it calculated carbon costs, dismissing any wrongdoing.

“The New York Attorney General’s allegations are false,” Steven Soper of Exxon’s Corporate Media Relations said to PBS. “We tell investors through regular disclosures how the company accounts for risks associated with climate change. We are confident in the facts and look forward to seeing our company exonerated in court.”

What’s at stake?

If Exxon loses the case, they’ll have to pay damages to the state of New York. But the company has to worry about more than a payout and a hit to its reputation. Exxon could also face additional legal challenges from other states, and possibly even at the federal level, according to Mark Latham of Vermont Law School.

The fallout could impact many other companies, too. “It’s a big deal,” said Latham to BuzzFeed, adding that any company “that generally downplayed the risk of climate in public documents they disclosed to the US Securities and Exchange Commission and others” would be at risk of future litigation if Exxon loses.

Exxon faces busy times

Following the case in New York, ExxonMobil was also affected by the second lawsuit in Massachusetts, where the Attorney General is accusing the company of defrauding investors and threatening the world economy.

The oil and gas firm is accused of a broad sweep of misconduct that includes using deceptive advertising to mislead consumers in the state about the central role its fossil fuel products play in causing climate change, and intentionally misleading Massachusetts investors about material climate-driven risks to its business.

Attorney General Maura Healey also upbraids Exxon in the lawsuit for an on-going “greenwashing” marketing campaign that she says falsely touts the company as a leader in clean energy research and climate action. The company “hypocritically” highlighted its environmental role while being among the largest corporate contributors to global warming, the complaint reads.

“Collectively, as with its historic and ongoing deception campaigns about the science, the objective of ExxonMobil’s efforts is to preserve the company’s short-term profits in a carbon-dominated world economy no matter the dire long-term consequences for the company’s investors or for the consumers who buy its products,” the 211-page complaint states.

While the New York case rests exclusively on investor fraud allegations, the Massachusetts one more broadly includes consumer fraud allegations based on Exxon’s failure to fully disclose information that would have allowed consumers to make informed decisions to purchase Exxon oil and gasoline products.

The case focuses on whether past statements Exxon made questioning climate change science and downplaying its risks to the company constituted a form of fraud against the public and its shareholders. It also alleges that Exxon hid from investors its decades-long knowledge that fossil fuels would have a negative impact on the climate.

“In the coming decades, these catastrophic ‘systemic’ impacts threaten to impose ruinous societal costs, cascade throughout the world’s economies, and decimate the overall value of the world’s financial markets, and with them, ExxonMobil’s global business and the holdings of the company’s Massachusetts investors,” the complaint said.

Exxon’s climate past

By the late 1980s, every major oil company understood the risk of global warming was coming, and that its advent promised regulations imperiling investments in fossil fuels, science historian Spencer Weart, author of The Discovery of Global Warming, told BuzzFeed News.

Internal Exxon memos have shown the company’s marketing strategy involved publicly casting doubt on the science, such as placing a full-page advertisement in the New York Times titled “Unsettled Science,” according to the new report “America Misled” by climate communication and historian researchers from George Mason University, Harvard University, and the University of Bristol.

Meanwhile, the company privately funded climate denial campaigns, bankrolling advocacy groups that sought to cast uncertainty over climate science, even after pledging to stop funding climate deniers.

“We know that this was deliberate,” Naomi Oreskes, a professor of the history of science at Harvard University and co-author on the recent report, told BuzzFeed News. “Given multiple opportunities to correct the record, they declined those opportunities, and continued business as usual.”

Other companies make the news

The city of Baltimore sued BP and 26 other oil majors that also include Exxon, Shell, Marathon, Chevron, and more. The city is seeking money to deal with, among other things, the rising sea levels, more intense heat waves, and more heavy downpours. The suit alleges the companies “have known for half a century” how their products have befouled the climate.

The suit was filed last year, and the oil companies have since tried to get it dismissed, including petitioning the United States Supreme Court for a stay and moving the case from state to federal court. The Supreme Court denied the stay on Tuesday meaning the case can proceed to discovery while attorneys haggle over whether it stays in the state court system or gets moved to the federal one.

Last year, a group of Colorado counties filed the first non-coastal climate lawsuit against a fossil fuel company. Like the Baltimore case, it’s focused on getting Big Oil to pay for climate damages, though Colorado’s concerns are a bit different. While coastal areas are worried about rising seas, the Mountain West will have to contend with disappearing snowpack and its impact on water supplies.

Exxon is again a defendant in this case along with the Canadian tar sand company Suncor. And like the Baltimore case, the defendants tried to get the case bumped to federal court to no avail; and just last week, they tried to get the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene.

Exxon did know about climate change since the 70s — and it lied, knowingly

The world’s largest company knew what was going on for a long time.

Satirical image created by azrainman.

It should surprise no one that ExxonMobil, the world’s largest oil company, does a lot of science. Many scientists will tell you that Exxon and other oil companies do some of the best geology studies out there — and that makes a lot of sense. With billions in profit every year and a direct interest in understanding both local and planetary processes, Exxon’s research and development is booming.

So one can only wonder then, why hasn’t Exxon addressed climate change earlier? It’s virtually impossible to study earth science and fossil fuels for so long and not come across anything, yet Exxon has refuted climate change for many years, saying that it’s not happening and investing millions and millions into denying it. Well, more and more evidence is lining up that Exxon did know about climate change, they just lied.

“[O]n the question of whether ExxonMobil misled non-scientific audiences about climate science, our analysis supports the conclusion that it did,” a team from Harvard University writes in the study.

“ExxonMobil contributed quietly to the science and loudly to raising doubts about it.”

A conflict of interests

Several pieces of evidence have emerged, all indicating that Exxon purposefully kept climate change science under the lid. It all peaked in 2015 when an email from inside the company revealed that Exxon had data pertaining to climate change as early as 1981 – seven years before it became a public issue.

Exxon replied, saying that the emails were cherry-picked and taken out of context.

“Read the documents,” a company release implored. “Go ahead, you really should. Read the documents InsideClimate News cites that purportedly prove some conspiracy on ExxonMobil’s part to hide our climate science findings.”

Scientists did just that. Science historians Geoffrey Supran and Naomi Oreskes went through 187 of the company’s climate change communications released between 1977 and 2014. In an op-ed accompanying the study, the two authors explain:

“We applied an empirical method known as content analysis to all relevant, publicly available internal company files that have led to allegations against Exxon Mobil, as well as all peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed publications offered by the company in response. We also analyzed 36 of the company’s paid “advertorials” about climate change that appeared as editorial-style advertisements on the Op-Ed pages of The New York Times between 1989 and 2004.”

Their findings are crystal clear: while privately, the company acknowledged climate change and understood the science behind it, publicly, it spent a lot of resources sowing the seeds of doubt and trying to convince the public that global warming is still an uncertain deal. The company opted for the cynical decision: convince people fossil fuels don’t do anything bad or risk losing face and business.

“Our findings are clear: Exxon Mobil misled the public about the state of climate science and its implications. Available documents show a systematic, quantifiable discrepancy between what Exxon Mobil’s scientists and executives discussed about climate change in private and in academic circles, and what it presented to the general public,” the authors add.

Fighting a bad fight

A mountain of damaged oil drums near an Exxon refinery. Image credits: EPA.

The good news is that Exxon’s climate scientists did a great job. They figured out what was going on before many others did. The bad thing is that overall, they kept quiet. While behind the scenes, Exxon was making a contribution to climate science, on the global stage, the company was very loud to deny the same science it was doing. Some 80% of their academic and internal papers suggested that climate change was real, but 81% of their advertorials claimed the opposite. In some cases, they included blatant factual misrepresentation, presenting data in a “very misleading” way, according to the independent researcher who produced that data, Lloyd Keigwin, a senior scientist in geology and geophysics at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Things haven’t changed that much in recent years. Exxon has reluctantly come out and accepted climate change as a scientific reality but they still put their money behind denial lobby. Exxon and friends spent US$114 million in 2015 alone to manipulate lawmakers and public discourse on climate change. They routinely give millions to deniers and lobbyists, pushing a firm agenda hidden beneath eco-friendly claims.

Previously, a report had shown that 9 out of 10 top climate change deniers are linked with Exxon Mobil, with one leading denier alone receiving over $1 million from Exxon in “funding.”

It’s unclear what consequences, if any, this will have. New York and Massachusetts attorneys general are currently investigating Exxon, and the federal Securities and Exchange Commission started a probe of its own last fall. It’s hard to say what these investigations will come to, but it’s encouraging that we are asking these questions at all.

It’s also worth noting that it was reporting by science journalists (especially from Inside Climate News and The Los Angeles Times) that brought a lot of this impetus. Now, pressure is also mounting from scientists and civil society. Exxon even lost a bit of stock following the publishing of this study, but at the end of the day, it might not make much of a difference. This is a company which reaped tens of billions of dollars in profit year after year, a company which continues to invest heavily in promoting climate change denial and continues to fight the bad fight. When it comes to climate, misleading and manipulating are ‘business as usual’ for Exxon and that’s very bad news for the planet.

Journal Reference: Geoffrey Supran and Naomi Oreskes — Assessing ExxonMobil’s climate change communications (1977–2014).

“Shell knew.” The big oil company was aware of the effects of climate change since at least 1991

A new, previously unreleased film has emerged, revealing that big oil company Shell was aware of what they called the “catastrophic effects of climate change.”

A snippet from the video. You can watch the whole thing below.

Shell knew

It’s not like oil companies are oblivious to the effects of their activity. Some of the world’s best geologists are working in corporations like Shell or Exxon — and these companies invest a lot in science. It’s just that they don’t always make their findings public and they don’t always act on what they find. After all, profit is a hard incentive to ignore.

The video has resurfaced thanks to research from Jelmer Mommers of the Dutch blog The Correspondent, after which it was picked up by Damian Carrington of the Guardian. The film, shot in 1991, paints our current situation with disturbing accuracy. It talks about the negative effects of fracking (which has since become a mainstream technology), increased floods, and the social change which will accompany the climate change. Shell’s 28-minute film is ominously called Climate of Concern, and was particularly aimed at schools and universities. However, it was never made public until now.

Ironically, it starts discussing the need for climate studies — something that the fossil fuel lobby is trying to sweep under the rug for years.

“Research of this kind is being stepped up worldwide. The need to understand the interplay of atmosphere and oceans has been given a new sense of urgency by the realization that our energy-consuming way of life may be causing climatic changes, with adverse consequences or us all.”

Does that sound familiar? It’s what researchers have been saying for years and years, with growing urgency. Yet the US just elected a president and an administration which promised to U-turn on all climate action. But it gets even better, as the video emphasizes the negative effects that everyone will suffer:

“If the weather machine were to be wound up to such new levels of energy, no country would remain unaffected,” it says. “Global warming is not yet certain, but many think that to wait for final proof would be irresponsible. Action now is seen as the only safe insurance.”

To top it all off, the film also lauds existing renewable energy sources — which in 1991, were much less efficient than the ones we have access to today.

It’s not like Shell was alone, they weren’t the only ones to figure out what was happening. As I was saying before, there are many good scientists working in oil companies — and Exxon could easily claim the top spot here. The largest private oil company and the third largest company in the world invests heavily into research. They’ve done so for decades, and it paid off… sort of. Exxon knew that climate change was happening since the 70s. A 2015 investigation showed that despite knowing about global warming years before it became a public issue, they chose to fund people to simply deny the problem instead of coming out publicly.

Exxon is currently under investigation by the US Securities and Exchange Commission and state attorney generals for allegedly misleading investors about the risks climate change posed to its business. Much like Shell, Exxon too chose to focus on profits instead of doing what was right. The strategy of the two companies is similar in the long run: make a whole lot of money, invest a small part of it into renewables or some sort of clean technology and have all your spokespeople say how “green” you are. Save your face. In the meantime, invest more of it into lobby to push forth your agenda. Keep pumping oil and making more money. It works, the oil industry arguably has a stronger voice than ever. Have you seen the new US Secretary of State? Meet Rex Tillerson, former CEO of ExxonMobil.

Data scientist traces main source of climate deniers’ funding

Right now many of the world leaders are gathered in Paris, attending the COP21 and trying to come to a consensus about what has to be done regarding climate change. The single biggest issue that nearly all the talks so far have touched is our reliance on fossil fuels in the energy sector and the imperative need to break this dependency.

This, however, is not news; in 1990, then-president George H.W. Bush gave a speech at Georgetown University saying that “we all know that human activities are changing the atmosphere in unexpected and in unprecedented ways.” Even today, many political figures in the US, and almost all internationally agree that climate change is real and that we’re to blame.

That’s been over 25 years ago, so why hasn’t anything been done up to now to address this issue? Why was our global economy allowed to develop a thirst for fossil fuels for so long? Well, one political party in one single country has constantly been at the forefront of delaying meaningful action for 21 years now: the Grand Old Party.

All of the current Republican presidential candidates make a point of denying what scientists and the common folk have come to agree upon in much of the world, and of preserving the status quo in the energy sector. The Donald is more worried about China “loading up with nukes” as if there weren’t enough of them already to take us straight to Fallout:Real Life with the press of a button, and Marco Rubio thinks we shouldn’t save the planet because it’s not a good enough return on investment. Why? Why are these public figures, with aspirations of world leaders, basing so much of their policy on a fossil fuel-centric agenda that will only come back to bite us?

In a revelation that shouldn’t shock anyone who’s even remotely aware of the concept of money, it’s because they’re being paid off.

And one sociologist thinks he knows where the cash is coming from. Yale Professor of Forestry and Environmental Studies Justin Farrell has published two sets of results he obtained after analyzing “all known organizations and individuals promoting contrarian viewpoints, as well as the entirety of all written and verbal texts about climate change from 1993–2013 from every organization, three major news outlets [the New York Times, the Washington Times, and USA Today], all US presidents, and every occurrence on the floor of the US Congress.”

Farrell built something best described as a social network for climate denial, with 4,556 individuals and 164 organizations, and tracked the most commonly used phrases among them, like “CO2 is good” or “Al Gore.” He gathered a huge amount of information, over 39 million words in all, and machine-read them all. In the end, he examined funding ties between these companies and people and was able to link most of the rhetoric directly to two entities who, in the second revelation that should shock nobody ever, made most of their wealth from fossil fuels: ExxonMobil and the Koch family foundations.

“[Donations by these two entities were] the most reliable and theoretically important across-time indicators of corporate involvement—including the ability to influence the mainstream media and the president.”

Farrell’s analysis of the climate change contrarian network shows that organizations that have received funding from ExxonMobil or the Koch family foundations clustered in green near the center.
Image via Slate

The data shows that Exxon and Koch along with other similar entities form the core of American climate denial rhetoric. Farrell also found that organizations started furthering the climate denial agenda regardless of how much money they received from them — donations of any amount boosted an organization’s “network power” and the influence it had on the overall discussion.

Frequency of occurrence of climate denial memes for organizations with corporate funding (red) and without corporate funding (black).
Image via Slate

Exxon refused to confirm the findings or take any responsibility for them, but last month the New York attorney general launched an investigation into Exxon’s public statements under the premise that it may have violated the law by downplaying the risk of continued fossil fuel burning. Politico also reported on Monday that the company began harassing journalists looking into the story and even (this is hilarious) sent a letter to the president of Columbia University in which it discreetly threatened to withdraw support of the institution. Farrell says that, so far, no one from Exxon or the Koch foundations have contacted him.

“In all honesty, I suspect that they might be pleased to see that their seed money was effective. From their perspective, their actions are not all that surprising, and are even financially rational, given what they stand to lose,” he said

Stephan Lewandowsky, Professor of cognitive psychology at the University of Bristol, has estimated that, assuming a social price of carbon of $40 per ton, the denial movement may have cost the global economy a minimum of $2 trillion in the last decade alone.

The scientists have done all they can — they showed us that climate change is real, they’ve warned us about its effects, now they’re showing us that big fossil fuel is paying off officials. Governments are split — some advocate for change, others for the status quo. The only ones left to make their move is us, each and everyone of us — and it’s going to be the deciding move, for better or for worse.

exxon mobil

Exxon investigated by NY attorney general for lying about climate change

ZME Science reported earlier that Exxon Mobil might be liable for a RICO case similar to tobacco companies for withholding information about the risks of climate change and actively seeking to manipulate public opinion to favor its business. Now, a NY Times article reports New York  Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman is investigating the oil & gas company on suspicion that the company failed to mention critical information to its investors about the risks of climate change.  A subpoena  was issued on Wednesday evening to Exxon Mobil, demanding extensive financial records, emails and other documents.

exxon mobil

Of course, this isn’t a racketing case. Schneiderman might charge Exxon solely, for now, with lying through omission to its investors over the past decades. This year, we found out that Exxon had internal memos issues by its own scientific teams that said global warming is caused human activities and, inevitably, the company has an important contribution in all of this. This was in the early 1980s.  Exxon’s public position has ever since decidedly been against acknowledging the dangers brought about by climate change,and even appeals by their founding family, the Rockefellers, to change company policy, fell on deaf ears. Exxon went ahead and spent more than US$30m over the years to thinktanks and groups that advocated and promoted climate change denial, according to Greenpeace.

If investors had been truthfully aware of the perils of climate change and, hence, the inevitable restrictions on fossil fuel use, they might not have decided to buy as many shares of Exxon stock. The case is that Exxon might have violated its fiduciary duties to investors.

“We unequivocally reject the allegations that Exxon Mobil has suppressed climate change research,” said Kenneth P. Cohen, vice president for public affairs at Exxon Mobil, for the NY Times.

In a similar case, ” Peabody Energy, the nation’s largest coal producer, had been under investigation by the attorney general for two years over whether it properly disclosed financial risks related to climate change.” So, we already have a precedent.

The State of New York is also particularly entrusted with legal tools other states do not have at their disposal to tackle such cases. A prime example is the Martin Act which the the New York Attorney General can use to investigate companies for nondisclosure of climate change risks. The Martin Act is New York State’s “blue sky” law, intended to protect New York investors from fraud in the offer and sale of securities. The terms of the Martin Act have been broadly interpreted, making it one of the most powerful blue sky laws in the United States.

Previously, New York State Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo  used the powerful but little-known Martin Act in 2008 to subpoena five publicly-traded companies that were connected directly or indirectly to the construction of new coal-fired power plants, demanding additional information relevant to their analysis of climate risks in connection with their business and disclosure of those risks to investors.

This case will be interesting to follow, especially since it can escalate into a RICO case. Just like tobacco companies were charged with misinforming the public on the health perils of smoking and had to settle for billions, so can Exxon along with other oil & gas companies  be held liable for similar charges for their active involvement in spreading misinformation about global warming.

“This could open up years of litigation and settlements in the same way that tobacco litigation did, also spearheaded by attorneys general,” said Brandon L. Garrett, a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law. “In some ways, the theory is similar — that the public was misled about something dangerous to health. Whether the same smoking guns will emerge, we don’t know yet.”

Exxon’s own scientists confirmed climate change – back in the 70s!

As a new investigation showed today, the scientists of the biggest oil company in the world, Exxon Mobil knew about climate change back in the 70s – but Exxon still helped block the Kyoto protocol in the 90s and invests massive amounts of money into denying climate change. Today, 9 out of 10 funded climate change deniers can be linked to Exxon, despite evidence that they are fully aware of global warming happening.

Climate change studies

Exxon’s Esso Atlantic. Image via Francesco Castorina.

Recently, an email from inside the company revealed that Exxon had data pertaining to climate change as early as 1981 – seven years before it became public issue. They ultimately chose to fund people to simply deny the problem instead of coming out publicly, but the history of how they did so is intriguing.

In the email, Lenny Bernstein, a chemical engineer and climate expert who spent 30 years at Exxon and Mobil and was a lead author on two of the United Nations’ IPCC climate science reports, said scientists working with Exxon were completely aware of the connection between greenhouse gases and climate change.

“Exxon first got interested in climate change in 1981 because it was seeking to develop the Natuna gas field off Indonesia,” wrote Lenny Bernstein in the email. “This is an immense reserve of natural gas, but it is 70% CO2,” or carbon dioxide, the main driver of climate change.

But now, there is evidence that Exxon understood global warming even before that. Senior company scientist James Black told Exxon’s Management Committee in 1977:

“In the first place, there is general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels.”

He said this in 1977! Exxon was so interested in the issue that they had a supertanker sailing through the Atlantic and taking carbon dioxide measurements to figure out how the oceans were absorbing CO2 and what the effects were. They even had scientists come up with climate models for the future, and the models all showed that we are causing a rising in global temperatures.

Exxon’s Richard Werthamer (right) and Edward Garvey (left) are aboard the company’s Esso Atlantic tanker working on a project to measure the carbon dioxide levels in the ocean and atmosphere. The project ran from 1979 to 1982. (Credit: Richard Werthamer, via Inside Climate News)

Working together with external researchers, they developed models which all led to a consensus: global warming was already starting to happen, we were causing it, and it was really bad. Even admitting the uncertainties in their own models, Exxon’s own scientists were never afraid to speak about both the changes that were taking place in the Earth’s climate, and their effects.

“There is unanimous agreement in the scientific community that a temperature increase of this magnitude would bring about significant changes in the earth’s climate,” Black wrote, “including rainfall distribution and alterations in the biosphere.”

Black also understood the interests of the company he was working for, and realized that the corporation would come under scrutiny. He warned that there is a “connection between Exxon’s major business and the role of fossil fuel combustion in contributing to the increase of atmospheric CO2.” Nevertheless, he demanded that the results be published… and they were!

It’s mind blowing to think about it today, but between 1983 and 1984, Exxon researchers published their results detailing how and why climate change was happening in least three peer-reviewed papers in Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences and an American Geophysical Union monograph. Roger Cohen, head of theoretical sciences at Exxon Corporate Research Laboratories, and his colleague, Richard Werthamer, senior technology advisor at Exxon Corporation were spearheading this research.

Our “ethical responsibility is to permit the publication of our research in the scientific literature,” Cohen wrote. “Indeed, to do otherwise would be a breach of Exxon’s public position and ethical credo on honesty and integrity.”

What a remarkable statement!

It seemed like the pieces were starting to fit; an oil company investigating climate change, documenting the effects of their work for the sake of humanity. They assembled a brain trust that at the time likely understood man-made climate change better than anyone else. In 1979, one of Exxon’s managers, Harold N. Weinberg, shared his “grandiose thoughts” about Exxon’s potential role in climate research in a March 1978 internal company memorandum that read:

“This may be the kind of opportunity that we are looking for to have Exxon technology, management and leadership resources put into the context of a project aimed at benefitting mankind.”

His sentiment was echoed by Henry Shaw, the scientist leading the company’s nascent carbon dioxide research effort.

“Exxon must develop a credible scientific team that can critically evaluate the information generated on the subject and be able to carry bad news, if any, to the corporation,” Shaw wrote to his boss Edward E. David, the president of Exxon Research and Engineering in 1978. “This team must be recognized for its excellence in the scientific community, the government, and internally by Exxon management.”

The company prided themselves in doing research that no other company was doing at the time, and their feelings were echoed by many others.

“We are very pleased with Exxon’s research intentions related to the CO2 question. This represents very responsible action, which we hope will serve as a model for research contributions from the corporate sector,” said David Slade, manager of the federal government’s carbon dioxide research program at the Energy Department, in a May 1979 letter to Shaw. “This is truly a national and international service.”

Exxon seemed determined to use their enormous resources to lead mankind into a more responsible future. But then, something changed.

Business comes first

Sometime in the 80s, despite being fully aware of what they were doing by that point, they decided that money is money – and becoming a responsible company simply wasn’t profitable enough. Instead of walking at the forefront of science, they chose to invest massively into climate change denial. They lobbied to block any attempt at limiting emissions. They pay to eliminate environmental laws. They financed superficial, and sometimes even pseudo-science. They created a veil of misinformation that lasts to this day, and continue to be the main investor into climate change denial.

Exxon helped to found and lead the Global Climate Coalition, an organization with other major oil and industrial companies seeking to halt governmental efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions. They allied themselves with the American Petroleum Institute, a right wing organization which represents about 400 oil corporations and invests massively into pro-oil advocacy. API spent more than $3 million annually each year during the period 2005 to 2009 on lobbying, mostly to fight climate change control legislation. They spread their wings and reached out as much as possible in an attempt to leverage their resources into making people believe global warming isn’t happening.

At the international discussions about enabling the Kyoto Protocol, Exxon had come full circle. They had come from being the forerunners in terms of understanding climate change, to its biggest deniers. Exxon’s chairman and CEO Lee Raymond said:

“Let’s agree there’s a lot we really don’t know about how climate will change in the 21st century and beyond,” Raymond said in his speech before the World Petroleum Congress in Beijing in October 1997. “We need to understand the issue better, and fortunately, we have time,” he said. “It is highly unlikely that the temperature in the middle of the next century will be significantly affected whether policies are enacted now or 20 years from now.”

They knew what was happening; they had known for two decades already, and yet they chose not only to ignore it, but they chose to fight against the truth – for profits. The many millions of dollars they invested into lobbying and manipulating have long surpassed their investment in its climate vessel and models, and have likely paid off by now.

“They spent so much money and they were the only company that did this kind of research as far as I know,” Edward Garvey, who was a key researcher on Exxon’s oil tanker project, said in a recent interview with InsideClimate News and Frontline. “That was an opportunity not just to get a place at the table, but to lead, in many respects, some of the discussion. And the fact that they chose not to do that into the future is a sad point.”

Chart of the major energy companies dubbed "Big Oil", sorted by latest published revenue. Image via Wikipedia.

Chart of the major energy companies dubbed “Big Oil”, sorted by latest published revenue. Image via Wikipedia.

Naturally, they also went from being praised and appreciated by the scientific community to being despised. In 2006, the Royal Society, the United Kingdom’s science academy, sent an open and very harsh letter to Exxon, accusing it being “inaccurate and misleading” when it comes to climate change uncertainty. In 2008, the company made a small concession, stopping support for some of their advocacy groups and pledging to never support climate change denial.

They lied.

In 2015, Exxon gave over $2.3 million to members of the US Congress to deny climate change and block efforts to fight it. According to a tally kept by Greenpeace, they’ve invested over $30 million in publicizing this denial, but the real sum is likely much larger than that.

Today, we pay the price – everyone on this planet pays the price – for spewing out so many greenhouse gases, and the company that should have been on the forefront of research is putting all their effort into making people think climate change isn’t happening. It’s a classic case of putting money before humanity’s interests. It’s a sad reality, and as Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, an uphill battle:

“All it would’ve taken is for one prominent fossil fuel CEO to know this was about more than just shareholder profits, and a question about our legacy,” he said. “But now because of the cost of inaction—what I call the ‘procrastination penalty’—we face a far more uphill battle.”

 

Inside Climate News published the first part of their investigation, and the second one will come out tomorrow. Be sure to check out their website for part two.

 

 

Exxon had evidence of climate change since 1981 – funded deniers for 27 years

An email recently unearthed by one of the their own scientists casts the blame on ExxonMobil, the world’s largest oil company in the world, as they had data pertaining to climate change as early as 1981 – seven years before it became public issue. They chose to fund deniers of the problem for the next 27 years.

Oh, the climate-change induced irony.
Image via: princeofoil.org

In the email Bernstein, a chemical engineer and climate expert who spent 30 years at Exxon and Mobil and was a lead author on two of the United Nations’ blockbuster IPCC climate science reports, said climate change first emerged on the company’s radar in 1981, when the company was considering the development of south-east Asia’s biggest gas field, off Indonesia.

The email provides evidence that the company was aware of the connection between fossil fuels and climate change, and the potential for carbon-cutting regulations that could hurt its profits, over a generation ago – factoring that knowledge into its decision about an enormous gas field in south-east Asia. The field, off the coast of Indonesia, would have been the single largest source of global warming pollution at the time.

The Natuna hydrocarbon fields.
Image via: www.ogj.com

“Exxon first got interested in climate change in 1981 because it was seeking to develop the Natuna gas field off Indonesia,” wrote Lenny Bernstein in the email. “This is an immense reserve of natural gas, but it is 70% CO2,” or carbon dioxide, the main driver of climate change.

Bernstein claims that the information was seven years ahead of other major oil companies and the public.

Exxon’s public position has ever since decidedly against acknowledging the dangers brought about by climate change, and even appeals by their founding family, the Rockefellers, to change company policy, fell on deaf ears. Exxon went ahead and spent more than US$30m over the years to thinktanks and groups that advocated and promoted climate change denial, according to Greenpeace.

Climate change was largely confined to the realm of science until 1988, when the climate scientist James Hansen told Congress that global warming was caused by the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, due to the burning of fossil fuels. By that time, it was clear that developing the Natuna site would set off a huge amount greenhouse gases into the atmosphere – effectively a “carbon bomb”, according to Bernstein.

“When I first learned about the project in 1989, the projections were that if Natuna were developed and its CO2 vented to the atmosphere, it would be the largest point source of CO2 in the world and account for about 1% of projected global CO2 emissions. I’m sure that it would still be the largest point source of CO2, but since CO2 emissions have grown faster than projected in 1989, it would probably account for a smaller fraction of global CO2 emissions.”

The excerpt comes from Bernstein’s email, in response to the Institute for Applied and Professional Ethics at Ohio University’s inquiry into business ethics.

“What it shows is that Exxon knew years earlier than James Hansen’s testimony to Congress that climate change was a reality; that it accepted the reality, instead of denying the reality as they have done publicly, and to such an extent that it took it into account in their decision making, in making their economic calculation,” the director of the institute, Alyssa Bernstein (no relation), told the Guardian.

“One thing that occurs to me is the behavior of the tobacco companies denying the connection between smoking and lung cancer for the sake of profits, but this is an order of magnitude greater moral offence, in my opinion, because what is at stake is the fate of the planet, humanity, and the future of civilisation, not to be melodramatic.”

Bernstein’s response, posted on the institute’s website last October, was released by the Union of Concerned Scientists on Wednesday as part of a report on climate disinformation promoted by companies such as ExxonMobil, BP, Shell and Peabody Energy, called the Climate Deception Dossiers.

In response to Bernstein’s comments, Exxon said climate science in the early 1980s was at a preliminary stage, but the company now sees climate change as a risk.

“The science in 1981 on this subject was in the very, very early days and there was considerable division of opinion,” Richard Keil, an Exxon spokesman, said. “There was nobody you could have gone to in 1981 or 1984 who would have said whether it was real or not. Nobody could provide a definitive answer.”

He rejected the idea that Exxon had funded groups promoting climate denial in the past.

“I am here to talk to you about the present,” he said. “We have been factoring the likelihood of some kind of carbon tax into our business planning since 2007. We do not fund or support those who deny the reality of climate change.”

According to Bernstein, Exxon was already well aware of climate issues well ahead of other oil companies, and of the prospect of regulation that would directly impact the company’s expansion plans in the area:

“In the 1980s, Exxon needed to understand the potential for concerns about climate change to lead to regulation that would affect Natuna and other potential projects. They were well ahead of the rest of industry in this awareness. Other companies, such as Mobil, only became aware of the issue in 1988, when it first became a political issue,” he wrote.

“Natural resource companies – oil, coal, minerals – have to make investments that have lifetimes of 50-100 years. Whatever their public stance, internally they make very careful assessments of the potential for regulation, including the scientific basis for those regulations,” Bernstein wrote in the email. “Corporations are interested in environmental impacts only to the extent that they affect profits, either current or future. They may take what appears to be altruistic positions to improve their public image, but the assumption underlying those actions is that they will increase future profits. ExxonMobil is an interesting case in point.”

Harvard University professor Naomi Oreskes, who researches the history of climate science, said it was unsurprising Exxon would have factored climate change in its plans in the early 1980s – but she disputed Bernstein’s suggestion that other companies were not.

She also took issue with Exxon’s assertion of uncertainty about the science in the 1980s, noting the National Academy of Science describing a consensus on climate change from the 1970s. The White House and the National Academy of Sciences came out with reports on climate change in the 1970s, and government scientific agencies were studying climate change in the 1960s, she said. There were also a number of major scientific meetings on climate change in the 1970s.

I find it difficult to believe that an industry whose business model depends on fossil fuels could have been completely ignoring major environmental reports, major environmental meetings taken place in which carbon dioxide and climate change were talked about,” Naomi Oreskes said in an interview with the Guardian.

The East Natuna gas field, about 140 miles north-east of the Natuna islands in the South China Sea and 700 miles north of Jakarta, is the biggest in south-east Asia, with about 46tn cubic ft (1.3tn cubic metres) of recoverable reserves.

However, Exxon did not go into production on the field. Keil, the ExxonMobil spokesman, confirmed that the company had decided not to develop Natuna, but would not comment on the reasons. “There could be a huge range of reasons why we don’t develop projects,” he said.

 

 

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Military energy report downplays oil in favor of renewable energy

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In its “Energy Security and Sustainability Strategy” (ES2 Strategy) report, the US army outlines the steps it should take to increase resilience and adapt to an ever changing world. Energy makes the go world round, and for an army it’s literally a matter of life and death. Not surprisingly, the authors note given the current climate of affairs the “army will prioritize solutions that reduce multiple resources. The Army can use energy more efficiently by purchasing energy efficient products, modernizing buildings and utility systems, purchasing energy efficient vehicles, and using more renewable/alternative energy sources.” Basically, being dependent on a finite resource (oil) is a security vulnerability, which isn’t something new. Military strategists have been aware of this for a long time – maybe the most during WWII when many lives were claimed in battles over oil rigs in North Africa and the Middle East, and oil refineries were being bombed on the clock. What’s changed today is the feasibility of renewable energy sources. Drawing the line, in those situations were oil is a liability (and we can only expect these to become ever numerous in the future), it’ll be scrapped in favor of renewable energy systems, both for generating and storing energy.

Trust the force

The authors of the ES2 look to the future; a future where the US army integrates all its systems in a mutually reinforcing and holistic approach. They write:

Our people are our strength… Our education and training will incorporate evolving knowledge, doctrine, and policy to guide Soldiers, Civilians, and Leaders to incorporate sustainability into planning and decision making. Organizational resilience and sustainability concepts will be integrated into Soldier and Civilian education programs at every level, from basic training to senior service colleges, as well as programs that focus on the holistic health and well-being of our people.”

The focus seems to be on managing critical resources and water. To achieve this, one part of the strategy is to diversify resources and disconnect them from another so a blow to one link doesn’t crumble the whole chain.  Portable power (besides diesel generators; think micro-grid systems) seems like a huge concern in the Army’s energy mix. Previously, the Army announced it intends on powering all its military bases with net zero emissions. It is also experimenting with hydrogen powered tanks or solar-powered tents.

Then, there’s the sensitive matter of budget. Luckily (for them), the US heavily funnels money to the military, but the budget isn’t an endless pot of gold. Last year, the Department of Defense (DoD) spent $4 billion on energy expenses. In 2014, the Army reported its investing $7 billion to fulfill its congressionally mandated energy goal of generating one gigawatt, 25 percent of its energy requirements, from renewable sources by 2025 while improving installation energy security and sustainability.

US military renewable energy

Image: US Army

 

Now, don’t get this wrong way. The Army is and will continue to be heavily dependent on oil, but the report’s emphasis on efficiency makes it clear than it wants to reduce oil usage and vulnerabilities to a minimum. Essentially, it looks like a sort of divestment away from oil. When the US Army or one of the world’s largest banks (HSBC) advises caution when depending on oil for military operations and financial investments, respectively, you know petrol is heading in one direction only: down.

Leave it to the goons

Rex Tillerson, chairman and CEO of Exxon Mobil Corp. Image: Huff Post

Rex Tillerson, chairman and CEO of Exxon Mobil Corp. Image: Huff Post

Meanwhile, it’s business as usual at Exxon – one of the world’s largest oil company. Amid historically low oil prices, the company netted  $32.4 billion last year in net earnings. During a meeting last week, ExxonMobil and Chevron rejected a number of shareholder proposals that would address climate change, be it by setting goal for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions or investing in renewable energy. Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson didn’t even mention the word climate change (is he also banned by Gov. Rick Scott?) during his speech and, moreover, ridiculed the thought of investing in renewables.  ”We choose not to lose money on purpose,” Tillerson said, to loud applause.

Tillerson was quite critical of the global warming situation: the models aren’t good enough to predict global warming’s effects; the world isn’t going to be able to meet emissions targets; technology will enable us to engineer our way out of whatever crisis may or may not occur as a result of climate change. Note that he somewhat recognizes climate change is real, despite never mentioning “climate change” in a sentence. Very clever. So, if there will be great turmoil because of emissions (with Exxon as a huge contributor), what’s Tillerson back-up plan?

“Mankind has this enormous capacity to deal with adversity,” Tillerson said, acknowledging, “I know that is an unsatisfactory answer to a lot of people.”

 Hilarious! He certainly hasn’t read Climate Shock by Wagnet and Weizman. Here’s an excerpt from my review:
“Humanity’s greatest challenges have always been solved by our prodigious son: technology. In the 1800s, the manure crisis threatened urban sanitation with a disaster. The Times of London estimated in 1894 that the situation was so dire that in 50 years every street in the city would be buried 9ft deep in horse droppings. The solution was the advent of the internal combustion engine, which eventually brought automobiles to replace horse buggies. Today, it’s not 9ft of manure that’s a threat, but 9ft of water. In the face of a much dire crisis, should we also this time wait for technology to save us?”
The only solution if climate change finds us on our knees is geoengineering, and trust me no one in their right minds would use it unless it’s absolute necessary. It’s that bad.
But, all signs seems to point to an energy paradigm shift away from oil. How long until oil stops being economically feasible? Nevermind climate change, it’s all about the dolla’ dolla’ bills. Tillerson might laugh now, but inside he knows his company is in for a beating in the coming two decades.
By the time the oil stopped flowing, nearly 11 million gallons had leaked out, contaminating 1,300 miles of shoreline and stretching over 470 miles from the crash site. Photo: Bettmann / Corbis

One of the most devastating oil spills 25 years later

By the time the oil stopped flowing, nearly 11 million gallons had leaked out, contaminating 1,300 miles of shoreline and stretching over 470 miles from the crash site. Photo: Bettmann / Corbis

By the time the oil stopped flowing, nearly 11 million gallons had leaked out, contaminating 1,300 miles of shoreline and stretching over 470 miles from the crash site. Photo: Bettmann / Corbis

Shortly after midnight on March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez, a mile off-course in an attempt to avoid icebergs, ran aground on Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound, gashing its hull and releasing oil into the Pacific Ocean. Hundreds of thousands of barrels of crude oil leaked into pristine Alaskan waters – it was an environmental nightmare, one that still echoes 25 years later. For the residents of the small Cordova community, the accident lingers much deeper.

Some 2,000 sea otters, 302 harbor seals and about 250,000 seabirds died in the days immediately following the spill. In the long run, however, the spill continued to wreck havoc, both to wildlife and the local economy, destroying whole businesses. Before the spill Cordova consistently ranked in the top 10 most profitable U.S. seafood ports. A quarter century later, it’s not even in the top 25. Herring fishing was the life and blood of Cordova, but 25 years layer herring population still has yet to recover in Prince William Sound.

Exxon’s army

At its peak, the effort involved more than 11,000 people and 1,000 boats. Workers skimmed oil from the ocean's surface and had to hose down goo-covered beaches, forcing the oil into traps for collection. Photo: Anchorage Daily News / MCT / Landov

At its peak, the effort involved more than 11,000 people and 1,000 boats. Workers skimmed oil from the ocean’s surface and had to hose down goo-covered beaches, forcing the oil into traps for collection. Photo: Anchorage Daily News / MCT / Landov

It took more than four summers of cleanup efforts before the effort was called off. Not all beaches were cleaned and some beaches remain oiled today. At its peak the cleanup effort included 11,000 workers, about 1,000 boats and roughly 100 airplanes and helicopters, known as Exxon’s army, navy, and air force. It is widely believed, however, that wave action from winter storms did more to clean the beaches than all the human effort involved.

Many years later, damage still linkers both the environment and to people’s hearts. It’s not only about the local economy – serious community conflicts and psychological breakdowns followed as well. This is what Liesel Ritchie, assistant director of CU-Boulder’s Natural Hazards Center, thinks. He and colleagues were part of a collaborative 24-year longitudinal study of Cordova and the impact the spill had on the local community.

“What has fostered so much stress and anxiety in the community as a whole is different science says different things,” she said. “For example, Exxon scientists say everything is fine, that the impacts were minimal to begin with and that they subsided very quickly. Then other scientists who are not being paid by Exxon have other findings. What we’re talking about here at that level then is contested science which tends to cause uncertainty and stress in populations that are receiving this information and not knowing entirely how to interpret that.”

From one direction you hear from people who say everything will be alright, while others tell you all hell is loose. A conflicting tug of war, with the Cordova community in the middle. Another huge stress factor was the exhausting litigation that finally ended in a judgment against Exxon in 2008 – almost 20 years after the spill.

25 years later

One fisherman told the Anchorage Daily News that getting the check was "a damn small bone for an old, angry dog is what it is." Still, despite the emotional scars, many parts of Prince William Sound have returned to their previous, pristine state. Photo: David McNew / Getty

One fisherman told the Anchorage Daily News that getting the check was “a damn small bone for an old, angry dog is what it is.” Still, despite the emotional scars, many parts of Prince William Sound have returned to their previous, pristine state. Photo: David McNew / Getty

During this time, some people may have developed serious internal conflicts. Even though the litigation is now finished in the people’s favor, many are disappointed in the compensation.What was once a $5 billion judgment in 1995 was reduced, through appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, to $507 million.
“The way most people describe it was a slap in the face because although they won the judgment against Exxon, the punitive damages were just that, puny, in most of the people’s minds in Cordova,” Ritchie said. “And there were some people that were really hopeful. And those people were the hardest hit in terms of the frustration and to an extent the anger that they felt with the Supreme Court and the way things went down.”
“You know, I think one of the most important things that I would like to share that I’ve learned over the years in working with people in Cordova, Alaska, in particular, is how strong and truly resilient they are,” she said. “I’m happy to say that at this point we have turned a corner on the stress associated with the spill and the ongoing litigation. The most recent data collection this past year suggests that the level of stress has dropped in the community as a whole, which is the first time since 1989 that we’ve seen that happen.”

Read more about the 24-year longitudinal study here.