Exxon to depose Massachusetts, NY AGs in climate case

A federal judge is allowing Exxon Mobil Corp. to depose the attorneys general of Massachusetts and New York over those states’ climate change investigations into the oil giant.

Judge Ed Kinkeade of Texas ordered that Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey (D) go to Dallas Dec. 13 for a deposition, and that New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) also be “available” in Dallas that day.

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Kinkeade said he will issue an order for Schneiderman’s deposition once he responds to Exxon’s claims against him.

Healey and Schneiderman are both investigating whether Exxon committed fraud by downplaying the science of climate change and its effect on its business in communications to the public and investors.

Exxon wants the federal court to dismiss the attorneys general’s investigative demands, arguing that they are illegal because they were made in bad faith and for political purposes.

The controversy has exploded in the last year as a representation of environmentalists’ demands to hold fossil fuel companies accountable for climate change, and the companies’ charges that their rights to free speech are being violated.

Exxon spokesman Alan Jeffers said the deposition reinforces a previous order from Kinkeade that allowed discovery in Exxon’s challenge to Healey.

“We have no choice but to defend ourselves against politically motivated investigations that are biased, in bad faith and without legal merit,” Jeffer said in a statement. “We did not start this, but we will see it through and will vigorously defend ourselves against false allegations and mischaracterizations of our climate research and investor communications.”

Healey’s office declined to comment on the order, and Schneiderman’s office did not respond to a request for comment.