(Reuters) - A trial in which Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N) stands accused of defrauding investors out of up to $1.6 billion (£1.2 billion) by hiding the true cost of climate change regulation is expected to wrap up this week.
It is one of dozens of lawsuits in the United States brought against oil companies and local and state governments over global warming. The following is a summary of how this litigation is playing out across the country:
- Exxon is the first case to go to trial against a major oil company over climate change.
- The New York attorney general has accused the Texas-based company of using two sets of books to hide the true cost of climate change from investors.
- Exxon has assailed the lawsuit as political. The company has said the two sets of figures used to calculate dollars per ton of carbon emissions served different purposes - evaluating global demand and planning for specific capital projects.
- The Massachusetts attorney general filed a similar lawsuit in October accusing Exxon of misleading investors and consumers for decades about the role fossil fuels played in climate change. Exxon has denied the allegations.
- If the New York and Massachusetts lawsuits are successful, other attorneys general could bring similar cases, said Robert Percival, who heads the environmental law programme at the University of Maryland.
- In addition to the litigation by attorneys general, Baltimore, Rhode Island and about a dozen local governments have sued oil and gas companies including BP Plc (BP.L) and Chevron Corp (CVX.N) over climate change. The lawsuits claim the companies created a public nuisance by producing the fossil fuels that contributed to global warming. They seek funds to pay for seawalls and other infrastructure to guard against extreme weather and rising sea levels brought on by climate change.
- The companies deny the claims. They say the lawsuits will do nothing to stop climate change and that they are working to address the issue.
- Meanwhile, teenagers across the country have filed more than half a dozen lawsuits accusing states and, in one case, the U.S. government of violating their constitutional rights to life, liberty and property by failing to implement policies that curb climate change. Governments have argued there is no constitutional right to a clean environment and that Congress and the White House, not the courts, should set climate change policy.
Reporting by Sebastien Malo; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Lisa Shumaker