The 123-year-old National Association of Manufacturers is emerging as one of the staunchest defenders of the U.S. oil and gas industry as it battles a cascade of litigation based on climate change and its impacts.
“The group has filed briefs defending oil companies in liability lawsuits, launched campaigns to discredit the communities filing them, and has worked to stop shareholders from pressing the oil companies to disclose climate risks,” Climate Liability News reports. “In these roles, NAM has put itself front and centre in the effort to keep fossil fuel companies from being held liable for their role in climate change, and from paying for the related damages that will run in the hundreds of billions of dollars to communities across the country.”
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NAM sees itself standing against a coordinated campaign by activists “to disparage U.S. manufacturers with a focus on America’s largest energy manufacturers,” CLN states. A NAM spinoff group, the Manufacturers’ Accountability Project (MAP), “is now attempting to convince the American public—as well as judges who might hear those liability cases—that attempts to hold companies accountable for their role in climate change will harm business,” the publication adds, citing the president of Northeastern University Law School’s Public Health Advocacy Institute and chair of its Tobacco Products Liability Project, Richard Daynard.
“Taxpayer resources should not be used for baseless lawsuits that are designed to enrich trial lawyers and grab headlines for politicians,” asserted MAP Executive Director Lindsey de la Torre, during a case in Rhode Island last year.
“This is essentially the PR front for the defendants in climate litigation,” Daynard responded. “This is all part of a long history of tort reform propaganda” dating back decades.
“So perhaps it’s not surprising that NAM’s defence of fossil fuel companies has begun to look increasingly like its support for the tobacco industry in the 1980s,” CLN writes. “Similar tactics were used when tobacco companies were facing hundreds of lawsuits and were charged with racketeering by the federal government for deceiving the public about the catastrophic health hazards of smoking. NAM has even hired the same law firm that defended the tobacco industry to launch an assault on the climate liability lawsuits.”
“It’s very similar what they’re doing, only the tobacco industry at least didn’t come right out and say, ‘we’re going to target these lawsuits directly,’” said Sharon Eubanks, the former U.S. Department of Justice lawyer who led the federal racketeering case against the tobacco industry. “They did so indirectly. But NAM and MAP, they’re like, ‘We’re targeting the lawsuits.’”
NAM isn’t alone in its defence of oil and gas interests. A recent report by the Energy and Policy Institute details successful opposition to the multi-state Wind Catcher wind farm project, coal industry opposition to renewable energy projects in Ohio and Indiana, and connections between anti-wind activists and a Koch- and coal-funded fossil front group as instances where a booming U.S. renewable energy sector has come under attack.