ExxonMobil blasts Healey in new court filing, nets support of 11 other state AGs
By Evan Lips | September 9, 2016, 17:16 EST
BOSTON — The ongoing feud between Attorney General Maura Healey and ExxonMobil escalated Friday, as the oil giant fired back again with a state Superior Court filing urging a judge to toss aside her civil investigation demand on the grounds it is biased and without evidence and born out of collusion with various political factions.
At the same time in Texas, 11 state attorneys generals have said they will sign an amicus brief intended to be filed in federal court in Dallas, joining that state’s Attorney General Ken Paxton in claiming that Healey has violated her constitutional authority by working to silence different viewpoints on climate change.
Healey and a team of other top state prosecutors, including New York Attorney General Eric Schneidermann, have alleged that ExxonMobil is guilty of deliberately misleading the public about the science of climate change and what its own scientists may have known and kept secret. Healey’s office earlier this year subpoenaed ExxonMobil in an effort to obtain 40 years’ worth of documents she claims will prove the company “knew about the risks of climate change decades ago and fraudulently concealed that knowledge from the public.”
ExxonMobil subsequently filed a motion for an injunction in Texas federal court, where the company is headquartered, a move Healey labeled as “forum shopping.”
ExxonMobil’s recent 35-page filing in Massachusetts’ Suffolk County Superior Court accuses Healey of using her office as a cudgel to promote a partisan viewpoint. The company also claims in the filing that Healey’s demand for four decades’ worth of documents constitutes a “fishing expedition,” “especially given the relevant four-year statute of limitations.”
The company also pointed to a dump of recently released documents it claims show “ulterior political objectives,” specifically the “partisan origins” of the March 29 “Green 20” summit in New York City where Healey “declared that ‘certain companies’ needed to be ‘held accountable’ for public statements that did not conform to her beliefs about ‘the catastrophic nature’ of climate change.”
“A draft set of ‘principles’ guiding the group’s actions included a ‘pledge’ to ‘work together’ to enforce laws ‘that require progressive action on climate change,’” ExxonMobil’s filing claims. “Fellow coalition members expressed qualms about this overtly political language, which the Vermont Attorney General’s Office feared ‘might alienate’ some constituents.”
An additional set of documents, according to ExxonMobil, allegedly relates to an agreement ironed between Healey and other coalition members following the March 29 summit “to shield the participants’ communications from the public.”
“The agreement describes their common interest as ‘limiting climate change and ensuring the dissemination of accurate information about climate change,’” the filing states. “That description reflects the Attorney General’s political objective, while embracing the regulation of speech to accomplish that end.”
ExxonMobil’s filing later goes on to challenge Healey’s claim that the company can be prosecuted in Massachusetts despite being headquartered out-of-state and her apparent failure to identify “in-state contacts” connected to Massachusetts consumers.
The filing additionally claims Healey’s actions constitute a free speech violation.
“Even if the Attorney General’s viewpoint discrimination were not so well documented, the CID (civil inquiry demand) would remain impermissible under Article XVI (free speech section of the Massachusetts Constitution) because it targets core political speech,” The filing notes.
Lastly, ExxonMobil in its filing slams Healey for what they claim is an overtly and unprecedented public investigation.
“ExxonMobil does not object to the Attorney General’s authority to hold press conferences; it objects to, and is aggrieved by, the improper and unconstitutional bias she exhibited while announcing this investigation during an unprecedented press conference,” the company notes. “Although permitted to make public statements, a prosecutor has no duty to publicly discuss investigations.”
Healey spokeswoman Emily Snyder said Friday the office would not be issuing a statement, citing the ongoing status of the litigation.
“If the Attorney General is right, nothing is to stop a state prosecutor from issuing a subpoena to a political opponent seeking decades of records on the theory that a disagreement about policy constitutes fraud,” ExxonMobil noted in its conclusion. “That is not how our democracy is supposed to work.
“Policy disagreements get resolved at the ballot box, not in the courthouse—or in the shadow of the courthouse.”
Meanwhile, the list of attorneys generals who signed on to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s proposed amicus brief, thus backing Paxton’s support of ExxonMobil’s motion for a preliminary injunction, hail from Louisiana, South Carolina, Alabama, Michigan, Arizona, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Utah and Nevada.
Read a copy of ExxonMobil’s most recent Suffolk County Superior Court filing:
Read a copy of the Texas filing: