Ellison Sues Major U.S. Energy Producers

"Our standard of living would fall immediately without these vital energy resources.”

Minnesota Democrat Attorney General Keith Ellison just announced a lawsuit against major U.S. energy producers, in a move that copycats the suits brought by other liberal attorney generals from states such as New York. 

The suit is being brought against ExxonMobil, Koch Industries, and the American Petroleum Institute. According to the Star Tribune, the lawsuit “seeks unspecified restitution, a corrective public education campaign and an injunction against continued violations.”

Other states that brought suits against energy companies in recent years include New York, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. The attorney general of New York’s suit was struck down in a New York court last year. Critics of Ellison’s suit say the same thing will happen to Ellison in Minnesota. 

The Center of the American Experiment’s Isaac Orr, a policy fellow specializing in energy and environmental policy at the Center, said that “the most likely outcome from this lawsuit is a gigantic waste of taxpayer money.” “This is simply a copycat of the lawsuit filed by New York’s attorney general that resulted in a humiliating defeat six months ago,” Orr continued.

Yet supporters of the suit claim that Ellison’s effort is different than New York’s, and seeks to go after big energy for “false statements” and “climate change denial,” much like attorneys general went after big tobacco several decades ago. 

But Isaac Orr thinks Ellison is up to a political stunt.

“According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, 80% of all the energy Minnesotans use comes from oil, coal, or natural gas. Minnesotans choose these sources of energy to power their lives because they are the most reliable, affordable means of driving their kids to school, keeping warm in Minnesota’s winters, and keeping the lights on in their homes, hospitals, and schools. Our standard of living would fall immediately without these vital energy resources.”

Ellison presented his suit “in the context of social and racial justice.” A group called MN350 appeared with Ellison at the conference. MN350 is “an advocacy group seeking climate justice, which seeks to include disparate economic and health impacts of climate change on poor and minority communities.”

It is unclear how climate change disproportionately impacts disproportionately minority neighborhoods, compared to things like riots, and the lack of proper policing. It also appears that many of the groups applauding Ellison’s move—such as the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, the Center for Climate Integrity, Fresh Energy, and the Union of Concerned Scientists—stand to benefit financially if any money is won. 


Willis Krumholz
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Willis L. Krumholz is a fellow at Defense Priorities. He holds a JD and MBA degree from the University of St. Thomas, and works in the financial services industry. The views expressed are those of the author only. You can follow Willis on Twitter @WillKrumholz.