A federal judge Monday canceled the deposition he had scheduled for Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey (D) in a climate change case regarding Exxon Mobil Corp.
In his Monday order, Texas federal Judge Ed Kinkeade did not explain why he canceled the opportunity for Exxon attorneys to question Healey under oath. The deposition would have taken place this week.
Healey is probing whether Exxon illegally lied to the public and shareholders when it allegedly downplayed the effects of climate change on its operations. She issued an investigative demand — similar to a subpoena —against Exxon to get more information.
The oil giant though is trying to throw out that investigative demand and Kinkeade last month ordered Healey to sit for a deposition by Exxon lawyers.
Kinkeade’s order for a deposition of a sitting attorney general regarding an open case was highly unusual.
Healey’s attorneys had argued in a motion to block the deposition that it would “set a troubling precedent by allowing the target of a state government investigation to confound and effectively halt law state enforcement objections ... by filing suit in the target’s favored federal forum and permitting the target to ‘investigate the investigator.’ ”
Healey’s office celebrated the judge's Monday order canceling the deposition.
“We are pleased that the federal judge has canceled this unprecedented deposition order,” spokeswoman Chloe Gotsis said in a statement. “Our office has argued strongly that the Texas court has no jurisdiction over our investigation and we will continue to urge it to dismiss Exxon’s lawsuit against us.”
Environmental groups also welcomed the development.
“Exxon has been lashing out in the dark, fueled by its own paranoia. These are the actions of a guilty party, attacking public officials and environmental groups instead of owning up to its own record,” said Jamie Henn, spokesman for 350.org, which is targeting Exxon and has in return been targeted by Exxon.
Exxon, whose CEO Rex Tillerson is reportedly President-elect Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTexas announces election audit in four counties after Trump demand Schumer sets Monday showdown on debt ceiling-government funding bill Pennsylvania AG sues to block GOP subpoenas in election probe MORE’s choice for secretary of State, declined to comment. The company has consistently said that it did not lie about climate change, and it agrees with the scientific consensus that global warming is real and humans are contributing to it.
Healey’s investigative demand is on hold while it is litigated.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D), who is also investigating Exxon, had been asked by the court to be present in Dallas for Healey’s deposition for possible questioning, but did not have his own deposition scheduled.