Montpelier >> Vermont environmentalists called on Attorney General Bill Sorrell to investigate Exxon Mobil's role in covering up climate science for decades, delivering more than 1,600 signatures of support for legal action to his office in Montpelier Thursday.
The climate activists, organized through the group 350.org, are also renewing the push for Vermont to divest the state retirement funds of fossil fuel company investments.
"At this point in time, there is no excuse not to divest from this company," said Austin Davis, a policy coordinator at 350.org. "Noble failure can no longer serve as moral cover, and we need to both divest from this company and bring it to justice."
The push to investigate ExxonMobil comes after a Los Angeles Times investigation found that while the company's scientists were "closely studying the impact of climate change on the company's operations, Exxon and its worldwide affiliates were crafting a public policy position that sought to downplay the certainty of global warming."
The 350.org activists were joined Thursday on the Statehouse steps by Dan Barlow, public policy manager at the Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility.
"This company appears to have misled the public, shareholders and congress," Barlow said. "Exxon Mobil has failed every ethical and moral standard that VBSR members hold themselves up to. The extent of this coverup needs to be investigated."
Sorrell recently joined a national coalition of 18 states and territories dedicated to work to protect and expand progress against climate change, and the activists called upon him to investigate the oil giant as a part of this new role.
In a statement, Sorrell said he was focused on defending the Clean Power Plan, a set of environmental regulations issued last summer by President Barack Obama which are now facing legal challenges.
"One of the other topics is a possible investigation of Exxon Mobil related to climate change," Sorrell continued. "We have been considering that question in a careful and deliberate manner. We expect to be able to make a public announcement on that question very soon."
One of Gov. Peter Shumlin's top initiatives laid out in his last State of the State address was to divest state assets from fossil fuel companies, but efforts in the Legislature stalled last session.
The divestment work has continued, however, and climate activists, labor leaders and fossil fuel representatives have met twice in the last month for a set of meetings facilitated by State Treasurer Beth Pearce.
"We are having a vigorous discussion about our state pension fund, the carbon risk that it currently faces and the changing markets and world we are looking at," said 350.org's Davis. "And that's ongoing."
"We are confident we will come to a pragmatic solution," Davis added, saying he thought the issue would be resolved before the next legislative session.
On a more local level, the Burlington City Council is looking to have the city's retirement fund eliminate investments in gas and oil companies.
Burlington City Councilor Selene Colburne said Vermonters need to act quickly to divest, and further, fight against climate change that would adversely impact the Green Mountain climate.
"Vermont may see a population surge as we play host to climate refugees seeking relief from flooded sea coasts and heat waves around the country," Colburne said. "We know from experience that all of these things will disproportionately affect those individuals in our communities who are are already food and housing insecure."
"These may sound like fantastical projections, but they are not," Colburne continued. "Science tells us this is the trajectory that we are on, the same science that Exxon Mobil has known for decades."