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Exxon Sues Second Attorney General In Response To Fraud Investigation

In this Nov. 4, 2014 photo, Attorney General-elect Maura Healey , D-Mass., celebrates her victory over Republican opponent John Miller in Boston. Massachusetts became the first state to elect an openly gay attorney general. Nationally, gay-rights activists worry that conservative gains in Congress will hamper their bid for federal anti-bias legislation. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/JOSH REYNOLDS
In this Nov. 4, 2014 photo, Attorney General-elect Maura Healey , D-Mass., celebrates her victory over Republican opponent John Miller in Boston. Massachusetts became the first state to elect an openly gay attorney general. Nationally, gay-rights activists worry that conservative gains in Congress will hamper their bid for federal anti-bias legislation. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/JOSH REYNOLDS

ExxonMobil sued a second attorney general involved in the fraud investigation against the company this week. The investigation, brought by attorneys general around the country and some environmental groups, looks into whether the oil company was hiding the truth about climate science from the public and their investors.

After suing Virgin Islands Attorney General Claude Walker in April on similar claims, Exxon’s next target is Maura Healey, the attorney general in Massachusetts. Healey is one of the attorneys general in the self-titled “AGs United for Clean Power” involved in the investigation.

Exxon accused Healey of using the investigation for political purposes by “targeting the speech of [her] political opponents” and “exposing [the company’s] documents that may be politically useful to climate activists,” according to the lawsuit. The company argues that the investigation is a violation of free speech protected under the First Amendment, and conservative representatives and attorneys general opposing the investigation agree. In addition, Exxon claimed the investigation violates their Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

Texas Thinks The Investigation Into Exxon Is ‘Ridiculous’Climate by CREDIT: Courtesy the office of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, via Flickr If you didn’t know better, you…thinkprogress.orgHealey joined 16 other attorneys general and eight climate environmental groups that subpoenaed Exxon for documents as far back as the 1970s. The company responded that “demands for millions of documents that span four decades are not justified by any legitimate law enforcement objective.” The law which was potentially violated has a four-year statute of limitations, which is the company’s defense for why Healey cannot investigate Exxon based on this law. Further, the lawsuit claimed that in that past five years, the company has not “sold fossil fuel derived products” or “owned or operated a single retail store or gas station” in her state.

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That claim can seem odd, given that the company’s own website shows over a hundred Mobil gas stations, and more than one Exxon station currently in operation in Massachusetts. Exxon is differentiating service stations that sell fuel under Exxon banners but are owned and operated by others. This qualification is likely lost on the vast majority of Healey’s Bay State constituents who buy gas from the Mobil station. Still, Exxon made the announcement they were not directly selling their gas in Massachusetts and Maine in 2014, which is within the statute of limitations of the law in question.

ExxonMobil’s “Find Gas Stations Near Me” tool directs consumers to hundreds of gas stations in Massachusetts. CREDIT: ExxonMobil’s site
ExxonMobil’s “Find Gas Stations Near Me” tool directs consumers to hundreds of gas stations in Massachusetts. CREDIT: ExxonMobil’s site

The company said that this limitations period and the company’s “longstanding” recognition of climate change risks discredit the legitimacy in the investigation. In the lawsuit, Exxon cited their sponsorship of the Global Climate and Energy Project (GCEP) at Stanford University — also sponsored by GE, Schlumberger, and Toyota. The project focuses on efficient technologies to reduce emissions and applying them on a large-scale.

Technology-focused research is important in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but the company’s stance is contradictory. A 2011 analysis of hundreds of climate skeptic papers showed that 9 of the top 10 authors were linked to Exxon. Exxon’s recognition of climate change comes too little too late, particularly when news outlets discovered the company scientist recognized climate change as early as 1977.Sydney Pereira is an intern with ThinkProgress.