By Andy Rowell
What a difference a few months make. Last year Exxon was on the ropes, reeling from the news that the company was under investigation for lying to the public and shareholders about the risks of climate change in the scandal that has become known as #ExxonKnew.
Furthermore, last October Exxon faced the humiliation of having to publicly admit that it was on course to cut its reported proved reserves of oil and gas by nearly 20 percent.
Fast forward a few months and we have Trump the climate denier in the White House, Exxon's man, Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State, Scott Pruitt, a climate denier at the EPA and the prospect of Exxon being allowed back into the Russian Arctic if sanctions are lifted.
Exxon, Russia Eye Oil and Gas in Disputed South China Sea https://t.co/lTLCNpvNlI @GreenpeaceAustP @foeeurope— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1486290904.0
Life is looking up for Exxon.
And now comes the news that an East Texas lawmaker, State Rep. James White, R-Hillister, has drafted a bill which could prevent the company having to defend itself in the #ExxonKnew court cases as it would not allow a defendant's theories on climate change from being used as evidence in a fraud case.
The bill states: "Evidence relating to the defendant's theories, beliefs or statements on climate change or global warming, including causes of climate change or global warming, is not admissible as proof of an element of an offense involving:
1. Fraud or a fraudulent or deceptive practice; or
2. Any false or misleading statement, representation or information."
James White told the American-Statesman that when proposing the law, he had Exxon in mind. "There have been some instances where people could get thrown into court or even potentially threatened with some kind of criminal punishment based on their belief or scientific take on global warming," he said. "I don't think that's how science should operate."
At the moment White's bill only relates to Texan law and the company faces other criminal cases, not least in Massachusetts and New York. Last month a Massachusetts judge refused to excuse Exxon from a request by the state's Attorney General to hand over decades worth of documents on climate change.
The decision by Massachusetts Superior Court Judge Heidi Brieger was seen as a significant legal victory for the Attorney General, Maura Healey and a setback for the oil giant.
After the ruling Healey said on Twitter: "This order affirms our longstanding authority to investigate fraud," adding that Exxon "must come clean about what it knew about climate change."
But last week, Exxon applied to have this case moved to Texas, arguing that the attorney general had abused the company's rights to free speech and that the investigation constituted an unreasonable search and seizure of corporate documents.
The legal move came the same day as Rex Tillerson was sworn in as Secretary of State.
"When out-of-state officials reach into Texas to violate the constitutional rights of a resident, it is proper for that resident to seek relief in Texas courts," the Exxon brief states.
Exxon also said that Texas should hear the case brought by the New York state's Attorneys General Schneiderman. Last week Politico magazine ran a feature on Schneiderman, saying: Will This Man Take Down Donald Trump?
The must-read article reveals how the two men have been at war for years and not just on climate, but also over Trump University and the Trump Foundation.
"We are facing a crisis, not over conservative or liberal, but a crisis over whether or not the rule of law is respected or not, over whether the Constitution is respected or not and whether the central American notion of equal justice under the law and that everyone be treated with dignity and equality and fairness—all that is at issue now," Schneidermann told a crowd after Trump's election.
We also face a climate crisis. And for many people Exxon remains the number one villain and the company should be forced to account for its decades long climate denial campaign in court.
Because all the evidence points to the fact that #ExxonKnew.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Oil Change International.
Yet another former Trump administration staffer has come out with an endorsement for former Vice President Joe Biden, this time in response to President Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
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Every September for the past 11 years, non-profit the Climate Group has hosted Climate Week NYC, a chance for business, government, activist and community leaders to come together and discuss solutions to the climate crisis.
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By Elliot Douglas
The coronavirus pandemic has altered economic priorities for governments around the world. But as wildfires tear up the west coast of the United States and Europe reels after one of its hottest summers on record, tackling climate change remains at the forefront of economic policy.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.