Exxon Widens Climate Suit to Fight New York Attorney General’s Probe

Having some success in Texas court battling Massachusetts' Maura Healey's investigation, the oil giant adds New York's AG Eric Schneiderman to its suit.

Credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

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New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was added to a lawsuit by ExxonMobil that seeks to block state fraud investigations into the company’s climate change record. The move steps up Exxon’s offensive to counter the gathering momentum against it.

Exxon filed the lawsuit against Schneiderman Thursday, less than a day after a Texas federal judge ruled the company could add the New York attorney general to its existing lawsuit against Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey.
The amended complaint essentially rehashes the same issues that have defined Exxon’s battle to halt the Massachusetts investigation. It hits the same theme that New York, like Massachusetts, is engaging in an “unlawful exercise of government power to further political objectives.”
“Attorneys General Schneiderman and Healey have joined together with each other as well as others known and unknown to conduct improper and politically motivated investigations of ExxonMobil in a coordinated effort to silence and intimidate one side of the public policy debate on how to address climate change,” according to the complaint.
Exxon is seeking an injunction barring the two attorneys general from enforcing a New York subpoena and a Massachusetts civil investigative demand (CID) issued to the global oil giant. The notices order the company to turn over decades of records related to the company’s research on climate change and how that work factored into business decisions.
Exxon sued Healey in June to halt the investigation her office opened in April. Until recently, the company had been cooperating with Schneiderman’s investigation, delivering more than one million records in response to a subpoena by his office a year ago.
Exxon appears to have raised no new issues in the amended complaint, though it stitches together a smoother, more detailed and colorful interpretation of events following the formation of the Attorneys General United for Clean Power coalition
“It is now indisputable that the subpoena and the CID were issued in bad faith to deter ExxonMobil from participating in ongoing public deliberations about climate change and to fish through decades of ExxonMobil’s documents in the hope of finding some ammunition to enhance the coalition’s, and its climate activist confederates’ position in the policy debate over climate change,” according to the amended complaint.
Earlier this year, 17 attorneys general under the banner of AGs United for Clean Power joined Schneiderman in announcing that fossil fuel companies that have obfuscated the realities of climate change could be vulnerable to state investigations. Exxon attorneys recently revealed that the company is also working on deposing those attorneys general and their staffs.

Schneiderman’s office filed a request in New York’s Supreme Court Monday seeking a court order compelling Exxon to comply with its subpoena. In it, Schneiderman calls the legal challenge in Texas a “forum-shopping exercise” in which the company is trying to find a sympatric federal judge in Texas.

“In statements made to this Court, Exxon acknowledged that the subpoena is valid and (inaccurately) boasted of the company’s compliance record,” according to the request. “But at the very same time, in a federal district court in Texas, Exxon is effectively moving to quash the subpoena on constitutional grounds it has pointedly avoided raising in this Court.”

Schneiderman’s office is asking the New York court to order Exxon to turn over an extensive list of documents by Nov. 23.

“The appropriate place and time for Exxon to make arguments for evading compliancewith the subpoena is here and now,” according to the court filing.

New York investigators want the court to order Exxon to surrender documents concerning how the company calculates its worth and the impact of climate change and related government action on such valuation.