Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison Wages Lawsuit Against American Energy Companies

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison has filed a lawsuit against multiple energy companies, Exxon Mobil Corp., Koch Industries, and the American Petroleum Institute, alleging they have deceived consumers over the effects of climate change. Ellison is reportedly seeking a large settlement, similar to the Big Tobacco settlement, for alleged damage to the environment.

If the results of similar lawsuits are any indication of how this lawsuit will play out, however, the most likely outcome for this lawsuit will be humiliation for Ellison and a large bill for taxpayers in the state of Minnesota.

Attorneys General in other states have also tried to sue these companies for a large lump sum payment, only to be rebuked by the courts. In New York, a similar lawsuit went down in flames and it was dismissed with prejudice.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Curt Levey described the outcome of the New York lawsuit as political opportunism that do nothing to help the environment:

“Bringing a politically motivated lawsuit based on contrived legal theories—what Justice Ostrager called an “ill-conceived initiative”—might score virtue-signalling points in the short run. But in the long run it’s a recipe for defeat. Other jurisdictions should also consider the cost to New York taxpayers for a pointless, manpower-intensive investigation, lawsuit and trial lasting four years.”

“Lawsuits against oil companies do nothing to reduce carbon emissions while diverting people and resources from the search for real solutions to climate change. When these high-profile suits fall apart in court, the public grows more skeptical of everything it hears about climate change. Such ill-conceived initiatives harm the very cause they seek to promote.”

It’s hard to take lawsuits like this seriously when Minnesota’s renewable energy mandate, the Next Generation Energy Act (NGEA), expressly excludes electricity generated from large hydroelectric dams as being counted as “renewable.” Furthermore, it is illegal to build new nuclear power plants in Minnesota, even though this energy source produced more carbon-free electricity than wind and solar combined, as you can see in the pie chart below.

The pie chart also shows that 80 percent of all the energy used by Minnesotans came from oil, coal, or natural gas. Minnesotans choose these sources of energy to power their lives because they are the most reliable, and 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.

Unfortunately, the office of Attorney General has become more politicized during Ellison’s time in office and Ellison has not been shy about using the office to threaten conservatives while declining to enforce laws that were broken by his ideological fellow travelers. When the owner of Shady’s Bar and Grill announced they could no longer afford to stay closed for the COVID-19 shutdown, Ellison threatened a $25,000 fine for every establishment opened and the revocation of the bar’s liquor license.

Mr. Ellison’s focus on punishing political adversaries and pandering to his own base seriously undermines the public confidence in the office of Attorney General. The most likely outcome of this show trial will be a loss for Ellison’s office and hefty waste of taxpayer funds. Considering the state’s looming budget deficit due to the COVID shutdown and the $500 million damage to businesses in Minneapolis, Mr. Ellison should be more responsible with public dollars.