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Exxon Mobil Seeks To Block Global Warming Probe With Injunction


       V.I. Attorney General Claude Walker

FORT WORTH — Exxon Mobil Corp. is seeking an injunction against the Massachusetts attorney general, alleging that a wide-ranging investigation into the oil company is politically motivated and violates its constitutional rights.

Exxon, based in Irving, Texas, wants to block a Massachusetts subpoena that sought documents relating to climate change science research and investor communications on the topic dating back 40 years. The company filed its motion on Wednesday in a federal court in the Northern District of Texas in Fort Worth.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and Virgin Islands Attorney General Claude Walker are all investigating whether Exxon misrepresented its understanding of climate change to investors and the public. The company already has turned over hundreds of thousands of pages of documents to Schneiderman.

Exxon, in its court filing, called Healey’s allegations “nothing more than a weak pretext for an unlawful exercise of government power to further political objectives.”

Exxon also said that the subpoena violates its right to free speech, Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure and the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.

“Our investigation is based, not on speculation, but on inconsistencies about climate change in Exxon documents which have been made public,” Healey’s office said.

The 33-page injunction filing is the company’s most sharply worded rebuttal so far to investigations launched last year into what Exxon has known about climate change since the 1970s.

Republican lawmakers have criticized the probes into Exxon by Democratic state attorneys general, a development that shows the degree to which the matter has become political football.

The initial probe began last year when Mr. Schneiderman subpoenaed Exxon. It took on renewed urgency in March when he,  Healey and Walker joined former Vice President Al Gore and several state representatives gathered to discuss their work to examine the company’s record.

In its filing yesterday, Exxon said the probes are “the culmination of years of planning,” referring to a 2012 meeting in which environmental activists discussed a strategy that included using the subpoena power of attorneys general to obtain records of fossil fuel companies.

Participants in the legal gathering, which took place in La Jolla, Calif., also discussed how such documents could pave the way for litigation akin to that leveled successfully against tobacco companies for their role in researching and misconstruing the risks of smoking. Exxon and its supporters dismiss the comparison with tobacco.


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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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