Exposing Exxon's Bad Behavior

Changing ExxonMobil's corporate behavior is the mission of a new environmental campaign called ExxposeExxon.com. Calling for a boycott of the company's products, stocks, and workforce, campaigners from 12 of America's largest public interest and environmental groups showed up outside ExxonMobil service stations nationwide Tuesday.

"For years, ExxonMobil has intentionally put its own profits above a clean environment and the health of America's families. As a result, we are asking all Americans not to accept a new job at ExxonMobil, invest in the company, or to buy ExxonMobil's gas and products," stated the ExxposeExxon coalition in a letter sent Tuesday to ExxonMobil CEO Lee Raymond at the company's Irving, Texas headquarters.

The ExxposeExxon campaign began campaigning yesterday in more than 50 cities, including Washington, DC, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Des Moines, Honolulu, New York, Minneapolis, and Philadelphia. The coalition will work through the Internet, through the news media, through door-to-door contact, bumper stickers and T-shirts.

The campaigners object because the corporation is lobbying Congress to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to drilling. They point out that ExxonMobil is the only oil company remaining in Arctic Power, the single-issue group lobbying to open the Arctic Refuge to drilling.

In a response to the boycott on its website, ExxonMobil said Tuesday the company supports "responsible" development of the Arctic refuge.

"We believe that with more than 30 years of industry experience on Alaska's North Slope and with recent technological advancements, ANWR can be developed with little threat to the ecology of the Coastal Plain," the company says.

ExxonMobil says it has no rights to acquire any property in the Coastal Plain, and "critical data, such as seismic, is virtually nonexistent, making a meaningful interpretation and forecast of resources difficult."

But the company says that "since energy sources are critically important to energy security and to support US economic growth, development of this area could contribute to domestic oil production and to a reduction of US dependence on foreign oil for many years.

The campaigners charge that ExxonMobil has been "trying to avoid paying all the damages due to those harmed by the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill."

ExxonMobil says, "The Valdez oil spill in 1989 was a tragic accident that the company deeply regrets. The company took immediate responsibility for the spill, cleaned it up and voluntarily compensated those who claimed direct damages."

"An Alaska jury set the actual damages of the Valdez accident at $287 million. ExxonMobil immediately and voluntarily paid more than $300 million to all those affected by the spill and the trial court in Anchorage commended us for acting so quickly. In addition, ExxonMobil spent $2.2 billion on the spill cleanup, continuing the effort from 1989 until 1992, when both the State of Alaska and the U.S. Coast Guard declared the cleanup complete."

"With regard to the Valdez punitive damages, the award has twice been thrown out by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which is a strong indication that there is a sound basis to ExxonMobil's arguments that the amount of punitive damages is excessive."

The appellate court referred the case for punitive damages back to federal district court Judge H. Russell Holland in light of two Supreme Court rulings. Judge Holland's decision awarding $4.5 billion to the plaintiffs, plus interest in the amount of $2.5 billion, has been appealed again by ExxonMobil, as it appealed his first award of $5 billion and his second award of $4 billion.

The Scarlett Law Group, a firm of California environmental disaster lawyers based in San Francisco, represents some 750 businesses, including fishermen, crew, fish processing facilities, cannery workers, tender boat operators, landowners, natives, and others harmed by the devastation left in the wake of the Exxon Valdez.

The law firm says, "Rather than devise a plan to provide adequate compensation to those harmed by its grossly negligent conduct, Exxon resolved that it would not assist those harmed by its egregious conduct unless forced to do so by the victims in Court. Without the plaintiffs' lawyers bringing suit on behalf of those harmed, the victims were assured of receiving nothing from Exxon."

"Thanks to ExxonMobil's refusal to pay the $4.5 billion dollars in court-ordered punitive damages to victims of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, thousands of fishing industry workers like me were forced out of the business or in a number of cases had to declare bankruptcy," said Ross Mullins, founder and chairman of the Prince William Sound Fishermen Plaintiffs' Committee.

The environmental groups who have mounted the ExposeExxon campaign include Alaska Coalition, Alaska Oceans Program, Alaska Wilderness League, Defenders of Wildlife, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, MoveOn.org Political Action, National Environmental Trust, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Union of Concerned Scientists, and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. The coalition claims a combined membership of more than 6.4 million people.

They say the the world's largest and most profitable oil company has been funding organizations that work to discredit the science behind global warming. Between 1998 and 2004, ExxonMobil gave more than $15 million to organizations working to hide the facts about global warming, the coalition says.

The company claims that it, "recognizes the risk of climate change and its potential impact on societies and ecosystems, and we continue to take actions and work with others to address that risk."

Americans want clean sources of energy that protect public health, reduce pollution, curb global warming, and save consumers money, the coalition declares. Instead, it says, "ExxonMobil has continually worked to make the U.S. more dependent on oil and failed to invest a significant sum of its considerable profits into clean sources of energy, unlike competitors such as BP and Shell."

The coalition says, "As increased demand for dwindling world oil and gas supplies earned ExxonMobil a recordbreaking $25.3 billion in net income in 2004, company executives dismissed suggestions that they invest in renewable energy, calling it "uneconomic."

Regarding funding research, ExxonMobil says it is "a leader in the private sector when it comes to funding climate research programs at top research institutions."

"Within our own business," the company says, "we have been deeply involved in the development of clean fuels processing technology and work extensively with vehicle manufacturers on advanced engine and fuel systems that can increase fuel efficiency and reduce emissions."

But the coalition is not persuaded, saying, "While ExxonMobil has pledged $100 million over 10 years for research at Stanford University into new energy technologies, such as burying carbon dioxide emissions, the company's commitment is just two days worth of its 2004 profits and is dwarfed by its spending on oil and gas exploration in 2004 alone -- more than $1 billion."

The coalition says the Stanford project has "no goals and no guarantee that ExxonMobil will apply any of the technology it helps develop."

The ExxposeExxon campaign is calling on ExxonMobil to protect, instead of drill, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and drop out of Arctic Power. The company is asked to "support mandatory caps on global warming pollution and stop funding junk science to cloud the debate on global warming."

The coalition wants the oil giant to "save consumers money at the pump and ease our oil dependence by investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency and supporting fuel efficiency."

And finally, the coalition is demanding that ExxonMobil pay all of the punitive damages awarded to fishermen and others harmed by the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

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