New York’s attorney general Eric Schneiderman has issued a subpoena to the oil giant, demanding “extensive financial records, emails, and other documents” relating to its climate change research, according to a report in the New York Times. In an emailed statement to ThinkProgress, a spokesperson for Exxon confirmed that the company had received a subpoena.
“We have received a subpoena for production of documents relating to climate change from the attorney general of New York and are assessing our response,” said Richard D. Keil, ExxonMobil’s senior media relations adviser.
A source familiar with Schneiderman’s investigation also confirmed to ThinkProgress the existence of the probe, and said that coal company Peabody Energy was also being looked into for similar reasons.
Schneiderman’s investigation will seek to answer questions about whether ExxonMobil engaged in a cover-up to mislead the public about the risks of human-caused climate change. Those questions were raised publicly by recent investigations from Inside Climate News and the Los Angeles Times, which found that the company knew as far back as 1977 that its product was contributing to climate change.
Instead of acknowledging this, however, the investigations found that Exxon gave millions of dollars to politicians and groups that deny climate science, and downplayed the scientific certainty. According to the Times, Schneiderman’s investigation began in secret a year ago, but the reporting from Inside Climate and The Los Angeles Times added “impetus” to their effort.
In his emailed statement, Exxon’s Keil said the allegations were unfounded.
“We unequivocally reject allegations that ExxonMobil suppressed climate change research contained in media reports that are inaccurate distortions of ExxonMobil’s nearly 40-year history of climate research that was conducted publicly in conjunction with the Department of Energy, academics and the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,” Keil said.
In the last month, all three of the Democratic presidential candidates have called for an federal investigation of Exxon. Following reports of the subpoena, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley tweeted his support for the effort.
— Martin O'Malley (@MartinOMalley) November 5, 2015
Though New York’s subpoena is not the federal probe they may have liked, some environmentalists see a state investigation as just one step closer toward that goal.
“New York’s attorney general has shown great courage in holding to account arguably the richest and most powerful company on Earth,” 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben said in a statement. “We hope that other state attorney generals and the federal Department of Justice, and the Securities Exchange Commission will show similar fortitude.”