Healey fights order to appear in Texas court on Exxon climate change case
By State House News Service | November 21, 2016, 17:42 EDT
STATE HOUSE – A federal judge has ordered Attorney General Maura Healey to appear in a Texas court next month to face questions over her investigation into ExxonMobil, a directive that Healey says she is “vigorously opposing.”
The oil company has fought back against Healey’s probe into whether it concealed information about the effects of fossil fuels on climate change, suing her in both Texas and Massachusetts.
“Legally, we believe we’re on strong legal ground, not only with respect to the questions that we’ve asked but also with respect to the position that this court has no jurisdiction over us — meaning, in simple terms, what the court has done is inappropriate,” Healey told reporters after speaking at a State House event honoring the survivors of homicide victims.
On Nov. 17, U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade ordered Healey to appear in a Dallas courtroom at 9 a.m. on Dec. 13 to give a deposition in the case, writing that he was “mindful” of her schedule and would be open to considering a different date.
The order is the latest development in a legal skirmish that began on April 19 when Healey issued a civil investigative demand to ExxonMobil Corporation seeking information on whether the company mislead consumers about the impact of fossil fuels on climate change and the risks that climate change could present to Exxon’s business.
Since then, Exxon has challenged the demand both in Massachusetts Superior Court and in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, where Exxon is headquartered.
In court filings, the oil company accuses Healey and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman of taking politically motivated actions intended to force the company into complying with their preferred policies on climate change.
“The investigations launched by Attorneys General Schneiderman and Healey amount to nothing more than an unlawful exercise of government power to further political objectives,” Exxon’s attorneys write in a Nov. 10 amended complaint. “The shifting justifications they have presented for their investigations are pretexts that have become more and more transparent over time.”
Exxon also argues that some of the requests in Healey’s civil investigative demand “appear to target groups simply because they hold views with which Attorney General Healey disagrees.”
Healey on Monday denied that her investigation into Exxon was political in nature.
“Our position in this litigation is that the authorities in Texas, and specifically the federal court down there, has no jurisdiction over state attorneys general and the work of their offices, and it’s been disappointing to see Exxon fight requests for basic information,” she said. “Our jobs as attorneys general is to be able to ask questions and when we become aware of instances of potential fraud — potential fraud on consumers — it’s our job to be able to ask questions, ask companies for information and have companies produce that information.”
Asked if she planned to go to Texas for the deposition, Healey said, “No, I don’t, and we’ll take it up on appeal.”
“We’re vigorously opposing any order to testify or submit to discovery,” she said.
In his order, Kinkeade also advised Schneiderman to be available to give a deposition on Dec. 13.
Healey said she has not spoken to Schneiderman about the deposition order.
–Written by Katie Lannan