- The Washington Times - Friday, November 18, 2016

A federal judge has advised two Democratic attorneys general leading the charge against ExxonMobil to appear for pretrial testimony on their climate-change investigations.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey are scheduled to undergo depositions by Exxon attorneys on Dec. 13 in Dallas, according to the Thursday order by U.S. District Court Judge Ed Kinkeade.

Exxon is challenging the prosecutors’ subpoenas demanding thousands of documents and communications related to probes into whether the company committed fraud by misleading the public about its research on global warming.

Exxon has argued that the investigations are politically motivated “witch hunts” that violate the First Amendment, while the Democrats have countered that “fraud” is not protected by the Constitution.

“The court’s order reinforces its original order that discovery be permitted after finding statements made by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey about her investigation into ExxonMobil were of concern to the court and may constitute bad faith,” said Exxon spokesman Alan T. Jeffers.

He referred to an Oct. 13 order by Judge Kinkeade permitting Exxon to conduct discovery in order to determine whether Ms. Healey was motivated by “bias or prejudgment.”

Mr. Schneiderman was added to the order last week.

“We have no choice but to defend ourselves against politically motivated investigations that are biased, in bad faith and without legal merit,” Mr. Jeffers said in a Friday statement. “We did not start this, but we will see it through and will vigorously defend ourselves against false allegations and mischaracterizations of our climate research and investor communications.”

Both Ms. Healey and Mr. Schneiderman have defended their probes as legitimate inquiries into whether Exxon misrepresented its research to consumers and investors.

Schneiderman spokesman Eric Soufer has also accused the company of “forum-shopping” by filing its case in Texas instead of New York.

“We will respond appropriately,” Mr. Soufer said in a Friday statement.

Healey spokeswoman Chloe Gotsis said she was “surprised that the Court has ordered two Attorneys General to appear for depositions in Dallas even though Exxon made no such request.”

“Our office has argued strongly that there is no personal jurisdiction in Texas and have urged the Court to rule on our motion for dismissal,” Ms. Gotsis said. “In the meantime, we continue to litigate against Exxon in Massachusetts state court, where this dispute properly belongs, and will fight aggressively to investigate whether Exxon Mobil deceived consumers and investors about the impact of fossil fuels.”

Mr. Schneiderman won a round last month when the New York State Supreme Court ordered Exxon to produce the subpoenaed documents, a decision the company is appealing.

“We are pleased with the Court’s order and look forward to moving full-steam ahead with our fraud investigation of Exxon,” Mr. Schneiderman said in an Oct. 26 statement.

He leads a coalition of 17 attorneys general — 16 Democrats and one independent — who vowed at a March 29 press conference to “fight for climate progress” by pursuing fossil-fuel companies and others who challenge the catastrophic climate-change position.

At the press conference, the attorneys general cited a 2015 InsideClimate News series called “Exxon: The Road Not Taken,” which accused Exxon of working “at the forefront of climate denial” by concealing research on the seriousness of climate change, prompting the #ExxonKnew social-media campaign.

Exxon has argued that its research was publicly available, inconclusive and no different from that undertaken by scientists elsewhere.

“We reject attempts to portray legitimate scientific observations and differences on policy approaches as climate denial,” said Mr. Jeffers in an earlier statement. “To suggest that we had reached definitive conclusions, decades before the world’s experts and while climate science was in an early stage of development, is not credible.”

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