Virgin Islands withdraws climate subpoena against Exxon

Virgin Islands withdraws climate subpoena against Exxon
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The Virgin Islands agreed Wednesday to withdraw a contentious subpoena it had filed probing decades of Exxon Mobil Corp.’s research and advocacy on climate change.

The withdrawal closes a major chapter in the drive by liberals and environmentalists to punish Exxon over allegations that it knew decades ago that fossil fuels were causing climate change but denied it publicly.

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Virgin Islands Attorney General Claude Walker (I) revealed the withdrawal in a court filing Wednesday evening as part of Exxon’s court challenge to the subpoena. His office and Exxon filed a joint motion to dismiss the case, stating that each party agreed to stop their respective actions.

Walker had subpoenaed the United States’s largest oil company and dozens of advocacy groups and conservative think tanks, asking for documents, sworn testimony and more about Exxon’s history on climate.

The actions spurred a furious response from conservatives along with allegations that Walker was violating the rights of companies and individuals to speak freely and debate openly.

“Walker’s subpoenas are a flagrant violation of the First Amendment, and the clear conclusion to draw following his withdrawal of the ExxonMobil subpoena is that these subpoenas were a baseless fishing expedition from the beginning,” Kent Lassman, president of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), said of the dismissal. The CEI has been targeted in Walker’s investigation and has publicly fought back.

Walker had repeatedly defended his investigation, most recently in a Wall Street Journal letter last week, saying he was trying to determine if Exxon “misrepresented what the company privately knew and publicly said about climate change,” and that such actions “could constitute fraud and violate our laws and the laws of other jurisdictions.”

In a statement, Walker said the withdrawal is definitely not a blow to his investigation.

“This agreement will allow the Department of Justice to focus on its ongoing investigation, without the distraction of this procedural litigation,” he said.

“I intend to continue to work with our state partners to advance our common investigation, while preserving our limited resources to address the many other issues that face the Virgin Islands and its residents.”

The attorneys general of New York, Massachusetts and California are also investigating Exxon’s climate history. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey (D) last week said she wouldn’t pursue an investigative demand she issued while Exxon challenges it in court.

— This story was updated at 9:17 a.m.