Connecticut Attorney General William Tong is continuing his legal fight against ExxonMobil six months after filing a lawsuit alleging the oil company has known for decades that burning fossil fuels contributes to climate change.
“Extreme weather is a fact of life now. ExxonMobil knew about all that and they kept it from us and that’s why I sued them,” Tong said.
It’s on Connecticut’s ski slopes where Attorney General William Tong is taking his continued legal battle against the oil and gas giant and alleged climate change deception.
“Their initial response was, of course, more lies and more denials and now they’re in court lying to the court trying to kick their case to federal court instead of keeping it in state court,” Tong said.
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Tong took legal action against ExxonMobil six months ago under the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act, alleging an ongoing, systemic campaign of lies and deception to hide from the public what he says the company has known for decades about the connection between burning fossil fuels and climate change.
In response, ExxonMobil called the claims baseless and without merit.
"Legal proceedings like this waste millions of dollars of taxpayer money and do nothing to advance meaningful actions that reduce the risks of climate change,” the company said in a statement.
But Tong argues the financial burden of climate change could fall on Connecticut’s outdoor recreation industry, including its ski areas.
“It means obviously less business and less customers but it also means increased cost. One of the things that you got to do if you have warmer temperatures and shorter winters is you’ve got to make snow,” Tong said.
“It does seem that what we’re seeing more of now is shorter windows of opportunity of cold weather,” said Bob Switzgable, owner and operator of Ski Sundown.
Switzgable says in his 38 years at the mountain, he’s seen the change in conditions. More frequent, intense storms and making up for a changing climate requires adaptation and investment.
“We’re doing a water project right now to increase the amount of water we can use each day. We’ve invested heavily in snow guns, air compressors, and things so that we can make more snow in less time,” Switzgable said.
"It’s likely that we’ll get between two and five Fahrenheit increase in Connecticut in 30 to 50 years,” said Jim O'Donnell, UConn Professor of Marine Sciences and Executive Director of the Connecticut Institute for Resilience & Climate Adaptation.
O'Donnell says while the frequency of snow from common storms will be reduced because of climate change, the likelihood of major snowstorms will simultaneously increase in Connecticut.
“If your business is dependent upon the occurrence of really cold conditions and snow versus rain then you will be impacted quite substantially I expect," O’Donnell said.
It’s Connecticut’s natural treasures Tong says are worth fighting for and holding ExxonMobil accountable for what he calls man-made climate change impacts.
“Climate change poses the true existential risk to this business to this community and to all of us and that’s why it’s so important that we fight with everything we have,” Tong said.
Some of what Tong is seeking in his lawsuit includes damages to fund remediation for harm he says has been caused in Connecticut by climate change, restitution for investments the state has made, and disgorgement of ExxonMobil’s profits.
ExxonMobil says it will continue to invest in efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while meeting society’s growing demand for energy.