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Sunday, March 22, 2020
Honolulu Sues 'Big Oil' -- Fatal Flaws in Evidence
By Selected News Articles @ 9:18 PM :: 513 Views :: Honolulu County, Environment

City and County of Honolulu v. Sunoco LP et al.

by Russell Cook, Gelbspan Files, March 19, 2020

Politicians in Hawaii were threatening to sue Big Energy companies last November for damages from the effects of man-caused global warming. As seen in their press release last week, March 9th, they finally delivered on it. Poor timing for those City/County officials, since the Coronavirus news is overrunning all other news now, but far more important is their poor judgement and lack of due diligence regarding their politically suicidal decision to jump on the bandwagon of the nine other boilerplate global warming lawsuits, which are being handled by the Sher Edling law firm.

As of the publication time of this blog post, Sher Edling is not yet showing this lawsuit as #10 on their pile of boilerplate filings at their Court Documents Complaints links page, for some unknown reason. This latest big news lawsuit doesn’t even appear yet on their press release page, like the prior ones did. They at least indirectly referred to it on March 9 at their Twitter page in three different tweets, where only one of their linked-to pieces offers a passing mention of their name two paragraphs from the end. That’s just one more odd looking problem in this overall situation, you’d think they’d announce this outright in some unmistakable way. But nobody can miss their name right at the top of the actual court filing itself.

Why is this latest effort by Hawaiian officials political suicide? Because ……. Sher Edling.

I’ll explain using screen captures straight out of this latest filing and from my prior dissections of what’s fatally wrong with their cases. Call it a ‘Summary for Policymakers,’ or a summary for the defendant law firms if they choose to drive a stake through the heart of these cases instead of trying to prevail via legal technicalities that only lawyers love.

First, from the San Mateo CA County July 2017 filing to this latest Honolulu one, all of these boilerplate filings claim,

Defendants, major corporate members of the fossil fuel industry, have known for nearly half a century that unrestricted production and use of their fossil fuel products create greenhouse gas pollution that warms the planet and changes our climate … They have nevertheless engaged in a coordinated, multi-front effort to conceal and deny their own knowledge of those threats … and persistently create doubt in the minds of customers, consumers, regulators, the media, journalists, teachers, and the public about the reality and consequences of the impacts of their fossil fuel pollution.

How do you prove that, though?

Identical to all the other Sher Edling lawsuits, such as the State of Rhode Island one, this Honolulu one offers this set of ‘leaked memos evidence,’

In 1991, for example, the Information Council for the Environment (ICE), whose members included affiliates, predecessors and/or subsidiaries of Defendants, launched a national climate change science denial campaign … Included among the campaign strategies was to “reposition global warming as theory (not fact).” Its target audience included older, less-educated males …

The fatal problem is how this set of leaked memos was never part of the ICE PR campaign, the set was an unsolicited, rejected, and never used proposal for campaign names and targeting / strategy suggestions that were — let me emphasize — never used, and never even seen by the main administrator/decision maker for the campaign.

You don’t need a law degree to arrive at this common sense conclusion: If a proposal for any particular action ends up in the trash can where nobody of any consequence sees it, it therefore is not evidence proving it was the guiding force for such efforts, or that such actions exist at all.

Adding to the trouble here just like all the other lawsuits, such as the County of Santa Cruz CA one, the source for the “Reposition global warming” memo set in the Honolulu filing is,

Union of Concerned Scientists, Deception Dossier #5: Coal’s “Information Council on the Environment” Sham (1991) …

The fatal problem with that is how the UCS is not the original source for the memo set, as proven deep within their overall collection of so-called ‘dossiers’ notes, where their disclosure says it sources from Greenpeace archives …. but the fatal problem with that is how Greenpeace isn’t the original source, either. The place where the memo set got its first major continuing media traction was via the old Ozone Action group, headed by John Passacantando and Kert Davies, where they only said they and Ross Gelbspan ‘obtained’ the memo set without saying who they obtained it from. (hold that thought about Kert Davies for a few moments)

Problematic as that situation is, these lawsuits don’t simply offer the worthless “Reposition global warming” memo set to prove sinister fossil fuel industry-led disinformation conspiracy efforts exist. They also offer the American Petroleum Institute (API) “Victory will be achieved …” leaked memos.

Just like all the other lawsuits, such as the Baltimore one, the Honolulu filing says,

In 1998, API, on behalf of its members, developed a Global Climate Science Communications Plan … API proclaimed that “[v]ictory will be achieved when . . . average citizens ‘understand’ (recognize) uncertainties in climate science …

Same fatal problem as the “Reposition global warming” memo set. The API memos were unsolicited and never implemented. Again, worthless as evidence proving sinister fossil fuel industry-led disinformation conspiracy efforts exist.

Piling on now: just like what’s seen in the Baltimore and Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations lawsuit, the source for the API memos in this Honolulu filing is an innocuous-looking website address with the root “document cloud.”

Click on the lawsuits’ version of the link reproduced below, and it takes you to a PDF file devoid of any identifying source. But change the two ends of the url address while leaving its number and name intact …….

  1. https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/784572/api-global-climate-science-communications-plan.pdf
  2. https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/784572-api-global-climate-science-communications-plan.html

……. and you’ll be taken to a regular webpage with a name clearly attached to it. Kert Davies, when he worked at Greenpeace. The same Kert Davies who is the current proprietor of the Climate Investigations Center (CIC), whose Twitter account features the API memo in its header photo. The same Kert Davies who is also the proprietor of the Climate Files website which the Sher Edling law firm cites as a source for one of the newspaper ads that came out of the ICE campaign.

That particular newspaper ad citation is among myriad other credibility problems within these Sher Edling lawsuits, which I’ve covered in my prior dissections of these filings.

Meanwhile, since it was the people who got merged into Greenpeace that were the most prominent holders of the “reposition global warming” memo set, and since Greenpeace said outright that the API memos were leaked to them, then Sher Edling should declare,

‘Coal and Oil executives ran disinformation campaigns, and all the evidence for that is at Greenpeace!’

Or is that something they might want to avoid drawing attention to at all costs?

Larger questions arise these boilerplate lawsuit filings, however. While the Hawaiian officials in this situation may have been dazzled by presentations put on by Sher Edling staff about the ‘evidence’ these lawsuits are built on, who dazzled the Sher Edling people with these otherwise worthless memos? Or was it not necessary to dazzle them at all? Considering the way ……..

…….. and how law firms don’t usually file mega-lawsuits for free purely out of the goodness of their hearts, is it fair to ask if the Kert Davies / Sher Edling connection is an opening into the world of how the overall accusation against skeptic climate scientists operates?

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