A few weeks ago, several studies surfaced from the 1970s showing how Exxon collected data demonstrating how fossil fuels caused climate change. The New York Attorney General is now demanding Exxon Mobil hand over documents that could prove it lied to investors and the public.
The New York Times is reporting that “people with knowledge” say Exxon Mobil was subpoenaed last night, with the office of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman demanding “extensive financial records, emails and other documents.” The article also notes that Peabody Energy is also under investigation for similar claims.
As I said a few weeks ago, and as today’s article points out as well, this is all very reminiscent of the Big Tobacco rulings, which also began with a few state-initiated inquiries. The Times explains:
Mr. Schneiderman’s decision to scrutinize the fossil fuel companies may well open a new legal front in the battle over climate change. To date, lawsuits trying to hold fossil fuel companies accountable for the damage they are causing to the climate have been failing in the courts, but most of those have been pursued by private plaintiffs.
Attorneys general for other states could join in Mr. Schneiderman’s efforts, bringing far greater investigative and legal resources to bear on the issue. Some experts see the potential for a legal assault on fossil fuel companies similar to the lawsuits against the tobacco companies in recent decades, which cost them tens of billions of dollars in penalties.
In 2006, several major tobacco companies were found guilty of misrepresenting their research and promoting smoking as safe. Could you imagine oil companies going on trial like the tobacco companies did?