- The Washington Times - Friday, September 9, 2016

ExxonMobil on Thursday accused Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey of attempting to “cleanse the public forum” of “disfavored speech” as the company fights to block her subpoena.

In a filing in Massachusetts Superior Court, the fossil-fuel giant argued that Ms. Healey’s demand for communications related to global warming stemmed from her effort to advance a political agenda, not ferret out wrongdoing.

Ms. Healey has defended her April 19 subpoena, or Civil Investigative Demand [CID], saying it was necessary to discover whether Exxon has engaged in “fraud” and unfair business practices by downplaying the impact of rising carbon-dioxide levels in the atmosphere.

“In defense of her actions, the Attorney General offers platitudes and non-sequiturs, but she fails to contradict evidence showing the CID to be nothing more than a vehicle to cleanse the public forum of views on climate change inimical to her own,” said Exxon in the brief, which comes in support of its previous request to have the subpoena tossed.

The filing represents the latest missive in a legal battle spurred by a Democrat-led coalition of attorneys general, known as the Green 20, formed in March to target fossil-fuel companies and others who challenge the catastrophic climate-change narrative, or “consensus.”

Exxon fought off in June a subpoena filed by the Virgin Islands Attorney General Claude E. Walker, who dropped his demand for communications between the company and more than 100 academics, universities and free-market groups.

In its brief, Exxon argued that Ms. Healey has made no secret of her views on climate change.

“In a public statement, the Attorney General pledged to reshape ‘public perception’ on climate change by investigating ExxonMobil for causing the public to ‘misapprehend’ what she considers ‘the catastrophic’ impact of climate change and for supposedly contributing to the legislative delay in enacting her desired policies,” said the 27-page brief.

“Her statements made clear that suppressing disfavored speech on a matter of public concern was the animating principle behind her official actions,” Exxon said.

The company also argued that Massachusetts has no jurisdiction over the case because Exxon is based in Texas, while its fuel and other products are sold in the state by independent operators.

The coalition, also known as AGs United for Clean Energy, includes 17 attorneys general — 16 Democrats and one independent — but so far only the Massachusetts, New York and Virgin Islands prosecutors have publicly acknowledged launching probes.

Healey spokeswoman Cyndi Roy Gonzalez said in a June 27 statement that the effort is based “not on speculation, but on inconsistencies about climate change in Exxon documents which have been made public.”

“The First Amendment does not protect false and misleading statements in the marketplace,” Ms. Gonzalez said.

In its brief, Exxon warned that upholding Ms. Healey’s subpoena would mean that “nothing is to stop a state prosecutor from issuing a subpoena to a political opponent seeking decades of records on the theory that a disagreement about policy constitutes fraud.”

“This is not how our democracy is supposed to work,” said Exxon.

The investigation has been lauded by climate-change groups such as the Union of Concerned Scientists, which has accused Exxon of attempting to “confuse” the public and shareholders on human-caused global warming.

Meanwhile, the Boston Herald has urged the prosecutor to drop the investigation, calling it “Healey’s Exxon jihad.”

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