Massachusetts AG defends climate investigation against Exxon

Massachusetts AG defends climate investigation against Exxon
© Getty Images

Massachusetts’s attorney general is fighting Exxon Mobil Corp.’s attempts to have a Texas court block its climate change investigation into the oil giant.

Maura Healey (D), the state’s top lawyer, filed a pair of briefs late Monday in the Texas federal court where Exxon sued to stop Healey’s wide-ranging demand for documents related to its stance on climate change going back to the 1970s.

ADVERTISEMENT

Healey believes Exxon might have violated state law and committed fraud by understating the company’s research into global warming and trying to sow public doubt about the role of fossil fuels in climate change. She sent her civil investigative demand — similar to a subpoena — earlier this year.

Now Healey is accusing Exxon of “forum-shopping,” or trying to get a Texas court to intervene in a matter that should be handled in Massachusetts.

“This court should reject Exxon’s transparent attempt at forum-shopping and dismiss this case,” Douglas Cawley, who is representing Healey’s office, wrote in a brief with the federal District Court for the Northern District of Texas.

“Exxon has challenged the validity of the [demand] in Massachusetts state court and will have a full and fair opportunity to press its claims there,” he said. “Notwithstanding that fact, Exxon also elected to file a nearly identical suit in this court and asks the court to exercise personal jurisdiction over Attorney General Healey — despite the fact that all relevant events alleged in the complaint occurred in Massachusetts or New York and no relevant events occurred in Texas.”

Healey also filed a brief opposing Exxon’s attempt in the Texas court to get a preliminary injunction against the investigative demand while the litigation is ongoing.

The court, Cawley wrote in the brief, “need not reach Exxon’s preliminary injunction motion because it should dismiss Exxon’s suit for lack of personal jurisdiction over Attorney General Healey, as well as on the other grounds set forth in her motion to dismiss.”

Healey and her colleagues in New York, California and the Virgin Islands have launched investigations into Exxon’s stance on climate.

Healey agreed last month to hold off on enforcing her investigative demand while Texas challenges it in court, a standard practice in similar cases.