A group of teenagers suing the government for not doing enough to prevent climate change want ExxonMobil to fork over communications from an alias email account used by the company’s former CEO.
“It’s possible that Rex Tillerson was communicating with people in government related to climate and energy policy using that email address,” Julia Olson, an attorney for the teenagers, said on Monday. She was referring to recent reports suggesting Secretary of State Rex Tillerson used a private email account during sensitive discussions with company executives.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman told a judge earlier this month that Tillerson used the alias “Wayne Tracker” for years during email exchanges. The Democrat argued the supposedly hidden account was used exclusively to talk about how the company should approach climate change.
Schneiderman has been investigating Exxon under the belief the oil company worked for decades to hide climate research from its shareholders and the public. Most of the research Exxon has acquired over the decades has been readily available through public information searches.
The teenagers want to prove government officials and oil companies were aware of the supposed causes and effects of climate change, but refused to address the issue. The child crusaders also believe hiding information about so-called “man-made” warming violates their constitutional rights to a habitable planet.
The federal government, meanwhile, has argued in court that Americans are not constitutionally entitled to a habitable climate. Oil industry lobbyists for the American Petroleum Institute (API) have said there is not enough evidence on climate change to support the teenagers’ case.
“Based on evidence we already have, it’s pretty clear that Rex Tillerson, Exxon and API all knew that climate change was very significant and was being caused by burning fossil fuels,” Olson said. “To the extent that we can get information through Wayne Tracker emails that they were openly acknowledging climate change was a big problem and trying to influence the government on how to deal with it, that helps our case.”
Exxon, for its part, argues the alias was never used to discuss ways to dupe the public about climate change. Instead, it was a perfectly legal way for high-level executives to hash out business policies.
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