ExxonMobil Fights Climate Change Subpoena
ExxonMobil has asked a U.S. federal court to invalidate a subpoena issued by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, calling investigations by New York and Massachusetts biased attempts to further a political agenda for financial gain.
The request came in the form of a motion to amend a pending action to invalidate a similar civil investigation demand issued by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey.
“Attorney General Schneiderman has publicly accused ExxonMobil of engaging in a ‘massive securities fraud’ without any basis whatsoever, and Attorney General Healey declared, before her investigation even began, that she knew how it would end: with a finding that ExxonMobil violated the law,” said the company’s amended complaint, in federal court in Fort Worth, Texas.
“The improper political bias that inspired the New York and Massachusetts investigations disqualifies Attorneys General Schneiderman and Healey from serving as the disinterested prosecutors required by the Constitution.”
ExxonMobil has cooperated with the New York investigation of its nearly 40-year history of climate research since it began last year and has turned over more than one million pages of documents.
However, increasingly political and biased statements by Schneiderman and his office - as well as revelations from third-party disclosures about secret and deliberately concealed collaboration with anti-oil and gas activists and a private law firm - have confirmed that he and Healey are incapable of impartial investigations and are attempting to silence political opponents who disagree on the appropriate policies to address climate change, says ExxonMobil in a statement.
The company cited recent statements by Schneiderman and his office that confirmed it abandoned the original pretext for the investigation - into ExxonMobil’s historic climate research - and is now evaluating the so-called stranded asset theory about whether ExxonMobil’s oil and gas reserves can be produced in the future because of global efforts to address climate change.
“It is now apparent that Attorney General Schneiderman is simply searching for a legal theory, however flimsy, that will allow him to pressure ExxonMobil on the policy debate over climate change.”
The investigation of the stranded-asset theory is “particularly egregious because it cannot be reconciled with binding regulations issued by the SEC, which apply strict guidelines to the estimation of proved reserves,” said ExxonMobil’s filing.
The SEC is the appropriate entity to examine issues related to reserves and other communications important to investors. ExxonMobil is fully cooperating with an SEC request for information and is confident its financial reporting meets all legal and accounting requirements.
ExxonMobil addresses the potential for future climate change policy, including the potential for restrictions on emissions, by estimating a proxy cost of carbon, which seeks to reflect potential policies governments may employ related to the exploration, development, production, transportation or use of carbon-based fuels.
ExxonMobil stressed in the filing that for more than a decade, it has widely and publicly confirmed that it recognizes the risk of climate change and its potential impacts on society and ecosystems.
ExxonMobil’s filing said numerous statements illustrating bias were made during and following a highly publicized March press conference hosted by Schneiderman and attended by Healey, other attorneys general and former vice president Al Gore.
It has been revealed through freedom of information law disclosures that prior to the press conference, the attorneys general were secretly briefed by Matthew Pawa, a lawyer who has unsuccessfully sued oil and gas companies over climate change, and Peter Frumhoff, director of science and policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists, an activist organization that has been targeting ExxonMobil for nearly a decade.
“Frumhoff and Pawa have sought for years to initiate and promote litigation against fossil fuel companies in the service of their political agenda and for private profit,” said the ExxonMobil filing.
“The attorneys general in attendance at the press conference understood that the participation of Frumhoff and Pawa, if reported, could expose the private, financial and political interests behind the announced investigations. The day after the conference, a reporter from The Wall Street Journal contacted Pawa. Before responding, Pawa dutifully asked [the] Chief of Attorney General Schneiderman’s Environmental Protection Bureau, ‘[w]hat should I say if she asks if I attended?’ [The Chief] - the [same] Assistant Attorney General who had sent the New York subpoena to ExxonMobil in November 2015 - encouraged Pawa to conceal from the press and the public the closed-door meetings. He responded, ‘[m]y ask is if you speak to the reporter, to not confirm that you attended or otherwise discuss the event.’”
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