Exxon’s efforts to avoid accountability and the company’s campaign of intimidation against CIEL and partners just hit a huge roadblock…
In 2015, the New York and Massachusetts Attorneys General opened investigations into whether ExxonMobil misled consumers, investors, and the public about the science linking the burning of their products to climate change.
In an effort to distract from and stall the investigations, Exxon went on the attack. The company sued the Attorneys General (AGs), arguing that the AG’s efforts to uphold the law and protect the public was a politically-motivated attack on the company.
In an unprecedented move, Exxon filed suit against the AGs on its home turf in Texas, and used the suit to issue baseless subpoenas to environmental activists and organizations—including to CIEL President Carroll Muffett. Exxon’s counter-suit is a blatant attempt to intimidate and silence those working to expose the truth about what the company knew about climate change, and what it did with that information.
Over the past month, however, we have celebrated a series of victories in the investigation into Exxon.
In March, the New York investigation revealed that for eight years, Exxon CEO (and now Secretary of State) Rex Tillerson used a secret email address under the alias “Wayne Tracker” to discuss climate-related issues and the risks they posed to the company’s business. Not only were these emails not originally disclosed, but a year’s worth of them have now disappeared, adding to mounting evidence that the company engaged in a decades-long—and apparently ongoing—pattern of concealment, deception, and potential fraud on climate change.
Then two weeks ago, the Texas judge transferred Exxon’s lawsuit to a court in New York, where it was dismissed within one day of being assigned. While this dismissal is mostly procedural to reset the suit for consideration in New York, it is important for several reasons.
First, Exxon has to start over. All of the subpoenas it had issued are nullified, including the one against Carroll—and by extension—CIEL.
Second, if Exxon couldn’t sustain its case in Texas, it will have a much harder time in a court that isn’t its home turf.
And third, moving the case out of Texas settles concerns about judicial overreach. Should a Texas federal district court be able to challenge investigations of attorney generals in other states? In his opinion, Judge Kinkeade acknowledged that the Texas court was not the proper venue to rule on the merits of Exxon’s claims.
In short, it’s been a bad few weeks for Exxon and a good few weeks for climate accountability. But Exxon has shown how it plays defense: with counter-suits, indiscriminate subpoenas to environmental activists and organizations, and throwing infinite resources behind campaigns to silence opposition and fight investigations. Our work isn’t over.
Now, CIEL is partnering with thirty organizations to call on California’s State Attorney General Beccera to join the New York and Massachusetts investigations into Exxon. The people of California deserve climate justice, and they deserve the truth.
For California residents: Add your name to a petition calling on California Attorney General Becerra to join the investigation into Exxon. His participation would demonstrate a commitment to defending the rule of law and protecting the public against fraud and deception.
Originally posted: April 18, 2017