Government-transparency group Energy Policy Advocates passes along some public records released by the Vermont Office of the Attorney General, providing background to that recent suit filed against energy companies for ‘climate deception.’
Interestingly, the VT OAG’s contract with a Washington, DC law firm originally sought counsel to “assist and support the AGO’s investigation and potential litigation against fossil fuel companies for the harms caused by global warming and the fossil fuel industry’s deception of the Vermont public regarding such matters.” (emphasis added)
CLW readers might recall how some “AG’s Climate Litigation Setbacks Triggered Revisionism,” from a failed model of suing for “climate nuisance” to claiming, why, these suits didn’t have to do with greenhouse gas emissions after all. They were, ah, consumer protection suits, merely seeking redress for purported deceptions.
“This is really not a case about carbon emissions, it’s not a case about any kind of pollution abatement, it is not a case about national treaties, and it doesn’t implicate any federal scheme, Your Honor. It’s a case about making sure we have accurate statements about the products and securities that ExxonMobil sells in the Commonwealth to its consumers and to its investors.”Massachusetts AG Office
That followed several defeats in court. The Vermont AG’s contract for outside counsel was amended from the original plan, to “assist and support the AGO’s investigation and potential litigation against fossil fuel companies relating to climate change and the fossil fuel industry’s deception of the Vermont public regarding such matters.”
This late-stage edit harmonized the pact with the student-body-right change in story, which isn’t overly convincing. For example, recently a Second Circuit panel pointed out the often obvious efforts by climate plaintiffs to gussy up the old pig with some new, “consumer fraud” lipstick, refiling failed climate nuisance litigation as deception lawsuits while clumsily retaining the demand for nuisance remedy of tens to hundreds of millions of dollars per plaintiff.
Which payouts do seem to be what this remains all about. And the impulse shown in this draft of a mid-2021 contract for a “deception” suit remains a tell.
The edited draft of the Vermont contract offers some peeks inside the process, and inside this suit in particular and its players:
Expense and fee shifting issues:
Those who can bill against the fee:
Experts and consultants: