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Public Citizen Fights Back Against Murray Energy Defamation Suit

Statement of Robert Weissman, President of Public Citizen

Note: Public Citizen late Monday filed a motion to dismiss a defamation lawsuit brought against the organization in August by Murray Energy Corporation and its CEO Robert Murray. The company and CEO sued after Public Citizen ran a short radio advertisement criticizing the company for filing lawsuits to block regulations aimed at protecting public health and addressing climate change. In its motion to dismiss, Public Citizen explains that the lawsuit’s aim is to punish and silence critics. The statements of Public Citizen over which Murray Energy sued are either statements of fact or opinion, both of which are protected under the First Amendment. Further, none of the statements in the ad is about Mr. Murray, so his defamation claim is baseless. The motion is available here (PDF). Public Citizen is represented pro bono in the case by Robert Balin, Alison Schary and Joanna Summerscales of the law firm Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, and Fred Gittes and Jeffrey Vardaro of The Gittes Law Group.

Murray Energy is wrong on the law and wrong in the belief that it can silence consumer groups, reporters and other advocates for climate change solutions.

The groundless lawsuit by Murray Energy is a blatant attempt to silence opposing views – its fourth such lawsuit since July 2012.

The Public Citizen ad made accurate statements and statements of our opinion, based on publicly available sources. As the ad states, Murray Energy has sued to block a rule intended to save lives by limiting the amount of coal dust to which coal miners are exposed. And Murray Energy has sued to block a proposed rule to limit carbon emissions from power plants – a rule intended to reduce the impact of climate change on human health and to prevent premature deaths attributable to carbon emissions.

Murray Energy’s lawsuit against Public Citizen is a desperate act by a member of an industry engaged in a losing battle against the tide of history. For decades, Dirty Energy interests have engaged in a public relations campaign to block action on climate change. As a result, we stand on the brink of climate catastrophe – a cataclysm that threatens tens of millions of lives.

The days when those bullying tactics can succeed are over. The growing public insistence on climate solutions is not going away; neither, unfortunately, is the reality of worsening climate change. As the rule proposed last spring by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency evidences, policy makers are, belatedly, starting to act. Murray Energy can’t stop that.

Nonetheless, humanity is now in a race against time to take sufficiently bold and comprehensive action to avert catastrophic climate change. If Murray Energy and other companies succeed in slowing action further, we may well fall over the precipice. The consequences would be too terrible to contemplate.

That’s why there is only one reasonable response to a lawsuit intended to scare critics into silence: Defeat the lawsuit in court and use the lawsuit to educate, motivate and activate the American public.

So, our message to Murray Energy: Your lawsuit is only going to help build support for the very solutions to climate change you are trying so hard to prevent.

Read the motion (PDF) to dismiss the lawsuit.

Read Public Citizen’s response to Robert Murray’s statements about the EPA rule.

Read background information about Murray Energy.