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Climate Kids Demand Feds to Turn Over 'Wayne Tracker' Emails

Climate
Photo credit: Our Children's Trust

Attorneys representing 21 youth plaintiffs in Juliana v. United States served request for production of documents to the U.S. government and the American Petroleum Institute (API), asking both defendants to turn over the "Wayne Tracker" emails, as part of discovery in the climate case.


As ExxonMobil explained Tuesday, the email address pseudonym "was put in place for secure and expedited communications between select senior company officials and the former chairman for a broad range of business-related topics." New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office stated in a March 13 court filing that Rex Tillerson used the "Wayne.Tracker@exxonmobil.com" pseudonym "to send and receive materials regarding important matters, including those concerning to the risk-management issues related to climate change …"

While risk-management issues related to climate change are important to the New York Attorney General's investigation, attorneys representing youth plaintiffs suspect the emails will also reveal the deep influence of the fossil fuel defendants over U.S. energy and climate policies and the defendants' private acknowledgement that climate change was caused by their product, both of which are important to the youth's case. To the latter point, the fossil fuel defendants have refused to take a position on whether climate change is caused by burning fossil fuels, even when pressed by federal judges to answer that question.

As reported by Bloomberg, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office stated that Sec. of State Rex Tillerson used a pseudonym, "Wayne.Tracker@exxonmobil.com," for emails while he served as ExxonMobil's CEO. Because ExxonMobil is a member of API and Tillerson served on the Board of Directors of API through December, he was a player in Juliana v. United States even before he was confirmed as Secretary of State, which caused him to become a named government defendant.

Plaintiffs are asking the U.S. government and API defendants to turn over any of Tillerson's pseudonym emails in their custody by April 16.

During a Feb. 7 case management conference, U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin relayed his understanding about the discovery youth plaintiffs are seeking to Frank Volpe, Sidley Austin attorney representing API:

"... there's a subset of their substantive due process case that involves what did you know and when did you know it and did someone cover it up, did they create this danger …"

"When looking for evidence of a cover up, emails from Rex Tillerson's pseudonym about climate change are just the kind of evidence the court needs to see," Julia Olson, plaintiffs' counsel and executive director of Our Children's Trust, said.

The 21 youth plaintiffs, ages 9 to 21, received national publicity last week about their case in The Washington Post and National Geographic.

Juliana v. United States is one of many related legal actions brought by youth in several states and countries, all supported by Our Children's Trust, seeking science-based action by governments to stabilize the climate system.

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A volcano erupts on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island on Dec. 9, 2019. Michael Schade / Twitter

A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.

"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."

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At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.

The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.

Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.

"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."

Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.

Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.

"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.

"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."

The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.

Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.