Oil company ExxonMobil is in the hot waters once again as the office of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has started investigating on the company's alleged climate change cover-up. Whether the company has lied to the public regarding the risks of climate change or hindered information to investors about how these risks could affect the business would be checked.
On Thursday, Nov. 5, a spokesperson from ExxonMobil confirmed that a subpoena from Schneiderman's office was received by the company. According to him, the subject of the letter has something to do with the subject of climate change. He added that the company is still assessing how to respond.
The core of the investigative process would be to determine if the company's 2015 statements regarding climate change risks addressed to its investors were consistent with its long-term research efforts.
ExxonMobil's near decadal action to pay external groups that pursued to weaken climate science, regardless of the possible impacts identified by the company's scientists to its executives, would also be part of the investigations.
ExxonMobil spokesperson Alan Jeffers said the company is unequivocally refuting the allegations pertaining to its suppression of climate change data, as found in media reports. He added that the reports are erroneous distortions of ExxonMobil's almost 40-year climate research, which were performed publicly, in collaboration with academic bodies, UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Department of Energy.
In a series of online articles, ExxonMobil researchers were said to be truly concerned about climate change due to the emission of fossil fuels decades back. However, the company later released statements expressing skepticisms about the said conclusion.
The news of New York's action against ExxonMobil signifies triumph for environmental advocate groups, who have been eyeing on the oil firm for years. The scrutiny also poses possibilities that other similar companies may also face the same situation.
The decision of Schneiderman to inspect the company may pave the way for the rise of legal battles against climate change.
"This could open up years of litigation and settlements in the same way that tobacco litigation did, also spearheaded by attorneys general," commented Brandon Garrett, a professor at the University of Virginia law school.
ExxonMobil said in a statement that it will hold a meeting with the media on Thursday, Nov. 5 5:45 p.m. EST / 4:45 p.m. CST, to discuss the subpoena.
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