Climate activists bring insurgent message to Exxon shareholder meeting: #ExxonKnew, it’s time to #MakeThemPay

“It’s time Exxon pay for its destruction. For years, I've seen the rise of extreme oil and gas extraction – fracking and tar sands – and increasingly extreme weather events of the climate crisis.

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SOURCE350.0rg
Image Credit: 350.org

Dallas, TX – Nearly 100 climate activists converged outside ExxonMobil’s annual general meeting today, bringing a powerful and insurgent message for action on the climate crisis to company executives, shareholders, and the public: #ExxonKnew, it’s time to #MakeThemPay.

Unfurling a 100-foot banner reading “Climate Crisis // #ExxonKnew // Make Them Pay,” Texans from across the state, with allies from around the country, pointed out the role Exxon executives have had in causing the climate crisis, while communities bear the brunt of their destruction and lies.

“It’s time Exxon pay for its destruction. For years, I’ve seen the rise of extreme oil and gas extraction – fracking and tar sands – and increasingly extreme weather events of the climate crisis. I’ve seen it on my own family’s farm and ranch in South Texas where we face more droughts and floods, increasing the risk of financial losses,” said Molly Rooke with 350 Dallas. “When Hurricane Harvey came ashore directly across my family’s land, climate chaos really hit home, literally, for me. My hometown, like so many communities, needs good, clean, safe jobs like those from renewable energy, which won’t do more harm to our climate as fossil fuels have done and continue to do. The era of fossil fuels must end. In many ways it’s already started. Even on our own ranch, my family is working to get utility scale solar.”

Rally speakers included Molly Rooke with 350Dallas, youth leaders Elena Komiya and Lois Durant with Environment Texas, Hadi Jawad with Dallas Peace & Justice Center, and more. Each highlighted personal impacts on lives, livelihoods, communities, and more, caused by Exxon and its climate crisis, including Hurricane Harvey’s devastation, refinery explosions, ongoing flooding, record rain storms, unprecedented temperatures, and future impacts we will inevitably experience.

The rally highlighted investigative reports from InsideClimate News and The Los Angeles Times released just ahead of the 2015 Paris climate talks, revealing Exxon knew everything about the impact of fossil fuel use on our climate as far back as the 1950s. Instead of warning the public, reports show how company executives continue to pour billions into campaigns of doubt and disinformation, bankroll climate-denying politicians and front-groups, and finance a phony debate about the reality of the climate crisis to block meaningful action.

“We must fight, we must unite. Whether it’s police brutality or climate change, people of color need to come together in our power. What effects water effects all of us,” said Olinka Green, community organizer in Dallas.

Now, a mounting list of cities and states are suing and investigating Exxon for its damages and decades of deception. Such litigation includes New York Attorney General Tish James taking ExxonMobil to court in October, following a multi-year investigation into the worst case of potential corporate fraud in history. Municipality and state lawsuits include those from Rhode Island, Boulder County, Colorado, eight cities and counties in California, New York City, and more, have filed lawsuits against ExxonMobil and the major fossil fuel companies.

“To funders of ExxonMobil: start selling your stocks. The lawsuits are coming. It’s time to make Exxon pay,” said Hadi Jawad with Dallas Peace & Justice Center

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Communities have been organizing around Exxon’s shareholder meeting for at least 20 years, bringing a range of demands including action on the climate crisis, divestment from fossil fuel companies, and now, the monumental demand to make the most egregious polluters and extractors pay for their destruction.

In addition to mounting lawsuits and litigation, the rally highlighted the decisive popularity for real climate solutions through Green New Deal policy platforms. Speakers began to define what #MakeThemPay means for Texans, such as job retraining programs, coastal resiliency projects, community-owned renewable energy, and more.

This comes days after the Texas legislature passed a contentious anti-protest bill, attempting to make the act of protecting against dangerous fossil fuel projects a felony. Similar legislation has come up in Louisiana and South Dakota, where communities are fighting to stop extraction and build-out of fossil fuels, including the No Bayou Bridge Pipeline (L’eau Est La Vie Camp), and the Dakota Access Pipeline. Communities plan to fight the unconstitutional legislation, starting with a rally this coming Saturday, June 1.

Exxon doesn’t need to pay for its damage. It cannot afford it. The only to be done with Exxon is for it to be nationalized and wound down as a business concern. This is not for only justice, this is for everyone’s survival. Justice would involve taking Exxon executives for trial to murder. 50 years ago Exxon scientists said ‘a lot of people are going to die if we keep this up,’ and all executives did was ignore it for their bottom line. If that’s not murder for profit, I don’t know what is,” former Department of Energy scientist who requested to remain anonymous. 

All this as renewable energy surges across the U.S. and around the world, and becomes more cost effective than coal, oil, or gas. Recent reports show that wind power jobs are the fastest growing sector in Texas.

Organizers had eyes on proposed shareholder resolutions and engagement, including a last ditch push from New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli and the Church of England to unseat board directors. Less than 9% of shares voted supported this effort. Earlier this year, and previous resolutions resulting in no change in operations at Exxon, the comptroller had attempted yet another climate reporting resolution. This resolution was rejected by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and did not make it into the 2019 proxy statement for the company.

To date, over 1050 institutions representing more than $8 trillion in assets have committed to divest from the likes of ExxonMobil. Tomorrow, May 30, New Yorkers will bring the 100-foot banner to Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s New York City office, escalating the urgent call to #DivestNY from ExxonMobil, underscoring futile and regressive shareholder engagement attempts, and calling on legislators to pass the Fossil Fuel Divestment Act and reinvest in real climate solutions.

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