Commentary: Kudos to AG’s office for fossil fuel lawsuit

By Tom Brett

In September, Attorney General Kathleen Jennings announced that her office filed a lawsuit in Delaware Superior Court on behalf of us Delawareans to hold 31 fossil fuel companies accountable for decades of deception in creating climate change, the harm that it is causing our state and the mounting costs of surviving those threats.

Bravo, Attorney General Jennings! This is the type of leadership that we need in Delaware. The gauntlet has been thrown, and for once, it is on behalf of us and not the powerful industries whose sole motive is profit despite the pervasive damage they cause. It is somewhat sad that this action is both bold and long overdue. The impact fossil fuel companies have had on our planet has been well-known and well-documented. Jennings has knowingly put a target on her back for all the powerful apologists and their stooges to snipe at.

As could be predicted, in the Sept. 27 edition of the Delaware State News, Rep. Rich Collins, R-Millsboro, took the brave stand of supporting the well-funded fossil fuel companies (“AG’s ‘progressive agenda’ is at Delawareans’ expense”). Because a factual argument in support of fossil fuels lost credibility decades ago, Collins characterizes Jennings’ actions as a “progressive agenda” for the purpose of “advancing political ideology.” I misplaced my decoder ring, but I am pretty sure Collins is trying to whip up fear of a nebulous force trying to disrupt our lives.

Heck, yeah, Attorney General Jennings is trying to change our lives! Holding entities responsible for the destruction they cause to our society is exactly what we need. This is what our government officials should be doing. Sadly, it is so uncommon that when it happens, some within our Legislature label it radical. The measured action to protect our environment that Collins calls for is simply a stall tactic to benefit the fossil fuel industry.

The lawsuit is not a threat to well-intended entrepreneurs trying to make a buck and help fuel our country. The lawsuit addresses the abuses that the most powerful industry has knowingly inflicted on our society and our planet. Its purpose is to hold 31 fossil fuel companies accountable for deception while causing climate change. They have known the extent of the disastrous consequences of extracting and burning fossil fuels for decades; however, they made the despicable choice to hide these facts from the public. They purposefully spent mountains of money deceiving the public and “influencing” government officials.

Remember when cigarette companies hired doctors to tell us on TV that smoking was not a problem and that it could, in fact, be healthy? Yet while doing so, they were aware of the indisputable science proving that smoking is a direct cause of death and serious health issues. In 1998, the attorneys general of 46 states fought the tobacco industry and won major settlements for the recovery of tobacco-related health care costs.

Fossil fuel companies are about to learn that they are also accountable.

Elected officials like Collins need to get their heads out of the tar sands. The effect of downplaying science has never been more apparent – and scary – than right now. If our leaders had the political will, Delaware could replace one-third of its fossil fuel-generated electricity with wind energy within three years at the same or less cost to ratepayers! Delaware’s geography presents a golden opportunity to create new, well-paying jobs in the wind industry. Delaware can, and should be, a leader in developing renewable energies. The University of Delaware College of Earth, Ocean & Environment has been doing incredible work and presents us with a road map to a more livable planet and a more prosperous Delaware. Its website, sites.udel.edu/ceoe-siow/offshore-wind-learning-center offers information on how renewable energy can provide jobs and economic benefits, and improve the health of our state and planet.

Thank you, Attorney General Jennings, for taking a stand on behalf of us average citizens. And a shoutout to Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary Shawn Garvin for supporting this lawsuit and for taking the responsibility of protecting our beautiful state’s natural resources seriously. Let us know how we can support you.

Tom Brett lives in Millsboro.