Energy

Judge Dings Lawsuit Alleging Climate Crusading AG Violated Exxon’s Free Speech Rights

REUTERS/Joe Penney

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Chris White Tech Reporter

A federal judge dismissed Thursday a lawsuit Exxon Mobil filed to prevent a spate of attorneys general-led probes designed to determine whether the oil producer misled the public about climate change.

Exxon’s claim that New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s investigation is an infringement of the company’s First Amendment rights is unfounded, the Manhattan court ruled. Schneiderman and Exxon have traded judicial jabs since the attorney general began targeting the company in 2016.

“Exxon’s allegations that the AGs are pursuing bad faith investigations in order to violate Exxon’s constitutional rights are implausible and therefore must be dismissed for failure to state a claim,” U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni said. The Texas-based oil producer suggested in court filings in 2017 that the investigations were politically motivated.

Schneiderman, a Democrat who has gone after everything and everyone associated with Republican politics, cheered Caproni’s decision in a press statement addressing the investigation.

“I am pleased with the court’s decision to dismiss Exxon’s frivolous, nonsensical lawsuit that wrongfully attempted to thwart a serious state law enforcement investigation into the company,” he said, adding that Exxon’s lawsuit was merely “‘legal jiu-jitsu’ that resulted in nothing more than a ‘huge waste’ of time and money,” according to the court.

Exxon is reviewing the decision and determining the best way to move forward. “We believe the risk of climate change is real and we want to be part of the solution,” the company said in a statement following the decision. Courts have dinged Schneiderman and Massachusetts Democratic Attorney General Maura Healey’s investigation for constantly shifting goal posts.

A New York Supreme Court Justice Barry Ostrager, for instance, told Schneiderman in a July 2017 court hearing that the Democrat should either prove the probe is legitimate or bring the pursuit to a speedy conclusion.

“We would be 1000 yards ahead of where we are” if the reasons for the investigation weren’t constantly changing, Ostrager said at the time. “You have engaged in a 16-month process requesting and receiving documents. You can’t start round two to produce documents all over again.”

Most of Schneiderman’s investigation is based on reports from liberal media outlets InsideClimate News and Columbia University, both of which claim Exxon has been hiding knowledge about global warming from investors and the public since the 1970s.

Federal officials have criticized Susanne Rust, one of the lead researchers responsible for Columbia’s Exxon reports, in the past for allowing her environmental activism to dictate her research on the oil company. She is also responsible for research hyping up the supposedly poisonous materials found in water bottles.

Regulators dismissed much of Rust’s research, showing that an additive called BPA found in plastic bottles can poison foods and water. The Federal Drug Administration researched such claims and found the chemical “contained no health risk.”

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