A U.S. judge has pushed back on Exxon’s claim that New York and Massachusetts violated its free speech rights by investigating whether it misled investors on the dangers of climate change, asserting that it would take “a wild stretch of logic” to accept the company’s assertion.
“U.S. District Court Judge Valerie Caproni dismissed Exxon’s complaint with prejudice, meaning the company can’t refile it,” InsideClimate News reports.
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Caproni described Exxon’s court action as “running roughshod over the adage that the best defence is a good offence.” She added that “the relief requested by Exxon in this case is extraordinary: Exxon has asked two federal courts—first in Texas, now in New York—to stop state officials from conducting duly-authorized investigations into potential fraud.”
The colossal fossil made that request “on the basis of extremely thin allegations and speculative inferences.”
The judge said Exxon had tried to make its case by “cherry-picking snippets” from the transcript of a 2016 news conference by AGs [U.S. state attorneys general] United for Clean Power. “Some statements made at the press conference were perhaps hyperbolic, but nothing that was said can fairly be read to constitute a declaration of a political vendetta against Exxon,” she wrote.
AGs Maura Healey of Massachusetts and Eric Schneiderman of New York had announced investigations of Exxon after InsideClimate and the later the Los Angeles Times reported that the company funded a decades-long campaign to cast doubt on climate science, even though the company understood the consequences of global warming.
“The judge rejected Exxon’s arguments that the news articles, which were based on decades of internal company documents as well as interviews and historical sources, were used as a pretext by the attorneys general,” InsideClimate writes.
“The only basis for Exxon’s allegation that these articles are a pretext is that, according to Exxon, the documents cited in the articles ‘demonstrate that [Exxon]’s climate research contained myriad uncertainties and was aligned with the research of scientists at leading institutions at the time’,” Caproni wrote.
“Assuming the truth of Exxon’s characterization of the documents, they appear to support the AGs’ legal theory that Exxon’s internal research was consistent with the scientific consensus but that Exxon made statements to the market and the public that suggested otherwise. In any event, Exxon has included no factual allegations that tend to show that the AGs do not believe that the articles based on Exxon’s documents have raised legitimate concerns that should be run to ground.”
The two AGs’ investigations focus on “whether past statements by Exxon questioning climate change science and downplaying its risks to the company constituted a form of fraud against the public and its shareholders,” InsideClimate notes.