Advocacy Group Pays Conference Fees for Mayor to Promote Energy Lawsuits
Santa Cruz mayor will tout lawsuit against Exxon to other mayors
An environmental advocacy group is paying the registration fees for Santa Cruz mayor Martine Watkins (D.) to attend the United States Conference of Mayors Summit in Hawaii later this month, where Watkins will speak in favor of governments suing large energy producers over climate change.
Santa Cruz is one of many California municipal governments that have filed nuisance complaints against companies such as Exxon, BP, and Chevron asking courts to order the creation of “abatement funds” to pay for past and future damages resulting from climate change.
Watkins told the Washington Free Beacon by email last week that the nonprofit Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) “has offered to cover the conference registration cost on my behalf. I’m using personal funds to cover the remainder of costs.”
UCS later confirmed the transaction was already completed.
“I’ve been invited to participate in the Climate Mayors Summit on June 26 in Honolulu as a member of a roundtable exchange, to share information about our climate action work,” Watkins wrote in the local paper Santa Cruz Sentinel.
“Although I’ll be attending as the Mayor of the City of Santa Cruz, I will not be using any city funds, resources, or taxpayer dollars. I am personally committed to using this national platform to advocate on behalf of our city, and ultimately, the sustainability of our planet for future generations.”
“I will specifically speak to our lawsuit against the largest fossil fuel corporations seeking to hold them accountable for their reprehensible contributions to climate change.”
The UCS has agitated for exactly these kinds of legal actions.
Documents previously published by Chris Horner of conservative watchdog group Government Accountability and Oversight showed that in 2016, UCS was co-host for a “safe space” meeting at Harvard University including activists, government officials, and lawyers to discuss possible legal actions by governments against energy producers.
Another email, also obtained by Horner, showed that in 2015 UCS was already strategizing along these lines, writing that “we think there’ll likely be a strong basis for encouraging state (e.g. [attorney general]) action forward and, in that context, opportunities for climate scientists to weigh in.”
UCS’s underwriting of program fees for Watkins could possibly violate California ethics laws.
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