Enviro groups sued for false advertising

Published June 1, 2000

On April 17, Western Fuels Association Inc. filed suit in Wyoming federal district court against six anti-coal environmentalist groups, alleging the groups’ “Global warming — how will it end?” newspaper ads constitute false or misleading commercial advertising.

Named as defendants in the suit are the Turning Point Project, Friends of the Earth, Earth Island Institute, Ozone Action, Rainforest Action Network, and the International Center for Technology Assessment.

Western Fuels is a nonprofit cooperative comprised of consumer-owned electric utilities. Its educational entity, the Greening Earth Society, contributes to E&CN.

At issue are a full-page advertisement in The New York Times and the Web site of the Turning Point Project which advocate eliminating the use of coal to generate electricity. According to Western Fuels, the ad and Web site promote the commercial interests of donors to the environmental groups identified in the ad.

The ad, says Western Fuels, makes false and misleading factual representations regarding the effects of carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels, specifically coal, and an alleged human-induced overheating of the Earth’s atmosphere.

Noted Fred Palmer, general manager and CEO of Western Fuels Association, “They are attempting to portray electric generation from fossil fuels as a significant health risk, while in fact the opposite is true.”

The suit was filed under the Lanham Act, explained Palmer, “because the Turning Point Web site is an integral part of a large commercial enterprise and advocates commercial transactions, [so] they have passed out of the safe harbor afforded free speech under the U.S. Constitution. They have engaged in false or misleading commercial advertising or promotion, something the Lanham Act was created to remedy under law.”

By way of remedy, Western Fuels asks that the advertising campaign be stopped on the Internet and other channels of commercial advertising, and that the defendants award Western Fuels damages and treble damages as a consequence of their activity.

For more information

contact Ned Leonard at Western Fuels Association Inc., 703/907-6163, email [email protected]. The full text of the complaint can be read at http://www.westernfuels.org/news/lanham1.htm, or Adobe Acrobat’s PDF format at http://www.westernfuels.org/pdf/suit.pdf.