Will Maine’s Attorney General join ExxonMobil investigation?

Will Maine’s Attorney General join ExxonMobil investigation?

Last Friday, NASA released data showing March of 2016 was the hottest March ever recorded since reliable measurements began in the late 1800s. February and January passed the same mark earlier this year. This decade is the hottest on record, and 2016 is on track to be the single hottest year ever.

This Friday, on Earth Day, a group of Mainers are taking action and will visit Attorney General Janet Mill’s office in Augusta to ask that she formally undertake or join an investigation of ExxonMobil, America’s largest oil and gas corporation. (Sign the petition here.)

Investigative journalism by the LA Times, Columbia Journalism School, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning Inside Climate News broke the story in September: ExxonMobil knew from their own sophisticated research about global warming as early as the 1970s, understood the catastrophic implications at the highest levels of management, and then spent the next three decades and $30 million funding climate science denial and fighting climate action.

Exxon’s funding went to many of the same right-wing think tanks that Koch Industries use—the same Koch brothers who have also funneled tens of millions of dollars to think tanks targeting the minimum wage. Representative Bruce Poliquin, the only climate science-denying member of Maine’s federal delegation, and the only member of the delegation to oppose increasing the minimum wage, received $4,000 from ExxonMobil and $5,000 from the Koch brothers last year.

Maine is unequivocally on the front lines of climate change. Fishing communities along the coast are grappling with lobsters migrating northward to colder waters and with economically disastrous invasive species like the green crab. Inland, ticks are being found in new places and in alarming numbers, and cases of Lyme disease have increased dramatically.

Maine also on the forefront of finding creative solutions. Last week, Bill Mook’s Walpole-based oyster hatchery made national news for its ingenious climate monitoring and adaptation techniques. The University of Maine’s Climate Change Institute is also widely regarded as one of the top research centers in the world.

Maine has also been a leader in taking on polluting and harmful corporations—and winning. From playing a critical role in the Big Tobacco lawsuits, to besting chemical manufacturers in restricting flame retardants and BPA, to winning local fights against Holtrachem in Orrington and oil companies, including ExxonMobil, in South Portland, the Mainers have a track record of standing up for what’s right against powerful corporate interests.

The parallels between Exxon’s extraordinary deception and the tobacco industry aren’t coincidental. Exxon worked directly with veterans of the tobacco industry’s own decades-long campaign to manufacture doubt about the health impacts of cigarettes. James Tierney, former attorney general of Maine and now director of the National State Attorneys General program at Columbia Law School, told the Houston Chronicle that he expected the fossil fuel investigation to follow a similar track as tobacco industry fraud cases in the 1990s.

At this point, both Democratic candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have called for a federal probe of Exxon by the Justice Department, and 17 attorneys general have joined a coalition exploring legal action. This coalition includes Maine’s Attorney General Mills, who has declared, “Global climate change demands immediate action and I am committed to using the authority of my office to address the problem in a meaningful way.” A.G. Mills has not yet formally committed to an investigation, however.

This Earth Day, Maine has the opportunity to be on the forefront of bringing ExxonMobil to account. Organizations and Mainers delivering signatures to A.G. Mills will meet at 10am on Friday the 22nd between the State Office Building and the Capitol.

Sign the petition urging A.G. Mills to formally join the investigation of ExxonMobil right here, and please share with a friend.

Photo via 350.org

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