Judge Seems to Scorn Free Speech Claim in #ExxonKnew Case
ExxonMobil seems to be having a hard time convincing a U.S. court to shut down a probe of whether it misled investors and the public on the dangers of climate change, InsideClimate News reports.
Exxon is trying to characterize the investigations by the states of New York and Massachusetts as a politically-motivated attack on its freedom of speech. But to make the case, “I can expect you to come forward with something that doesn’t require wild leaps of logic,” U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni told the company’s lawyers last week. Attorneys General Eric Schneiderman and Maura Healey are asking the judge to dismiss Exxon’s lawsuit.
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“The judge’s inquiries suggested the company had failed to build a strong enough case to halt the probes,” ICN notes. Caproni has given the two states until December 21 to file additional arguments, and Exxon until January 12 to respond. That tight timeline, combined with her tough questioning, suggests to one legal observer that the judge is close to making a decision on the case.
“It’s hard to say she is sending a direct signal about what side she will rule for,” said University of Texas law professor Tom McGarity. “But it sounds like she wants this resolved quickly and that she’ll seriously consider a motion to dismiss.”
The story behind the legal fight dates back more than two years, to an award-winning InsideClimate investigation showing that Exxon understood the consequences of climate change as early as 1977. “The two attorneys general have focused their investigations on how the company informed investors about the impact of future climate regulations on Exxon’s oil and gas reserves—estimates of the amount oil and gas it will be able to profitably extract in coming years,” ICN now reports.
“During the hearing, Caproni repeatedly asserted that the attorneys general have every right to probe whether the company committed fraud by failing to adequately disclose climate change risks. She also cast doubt on Exxon’s attempts to frame the investigation as a political witch hunt.”
“The attorney general of New York is a political animal,” Caproni said. “He’s entitled to act like a political animal.”