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Vermont’s Consumer Protection Suit Against Energy Firms Returned to State Court *Centurion Insurance AFS*

Feb 15, 2024 (0) comment , , , , , , , , , , ,


The federal district court in Burlington, Vermont recently granted the state attorney general’s motion to return the state’s consumer protection case against Exxon and other fossil fuel producers to state court.

The federal court said that since the case is not asserting any federal issues and invokes only Vermont’s consumer protection law, it belongs in state court.

Using the Vermont Consumer Protection Act, the attorney general’s office sued Exxon and other energy firms for misrepresentations and greenwashing related to fossil fuel products. The case has been stalled since shortly after it was filed in September 2021 due to this dispute over whether it belonged in state or federal court.

The federal court’s February 6 remand order will allow the case to proceed to the next stage of litigation in state court.

“Vermonters deserve to know the truth about fossil fuel products as they make consumer choices,” said Attorney General Charity Clark. “This case seeks to hold accountable fossil fuel companies that misrepresented their products and hid information from the public.”

The case alleges that Exxon, Royal Dutch, Shell, Sunoco, Citgo and other energy firms concealed and misrepresented the connection between their products and climate change, which denied Vermont consumers the opportunity to make informed and different decisions regarding fossil fuel purchases.

The attorney general wants to prevent the companies from engaging in further deception and to rectify past deception, civil penalties, and to make the companies relinquish the profit they made as a result of their false advertising.

The state originally filed the case in Chittenden Superior Court in 2021 and the fossil fuel defendants removed the case to federal court, arguing the claims were governed by federal law. However, as the federal court noted, Vermont’s case is “a two-count consumer protection action claiming deceptive and unfair practices that took place exclusively within the State of Vermont.”

The federal court noted that the Vermont case is similar to cases brought by other state and local governments claiming that fossil fuel companies promoted their products while concealing their climate change impacts.

Last September, a federal appeals court for Connecticut in a similar case (Connecticut v. Exxon Mobil Corp.) addressed several of the jurisdictional questions raised in the Vermont case. The state of Connecticut similarly sued a fossil fuel company claiming violations of Connecticut’s unfair trade practices statute. The company removed the case to federal court, and the federal district court ordered it remanded.


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