Conflict over Exxon climate probe
The chairman of the House Science Committee in the United States Congress threatened further action Wednesday after the New York and Massachusetts attorneys general refused to comply with congressional subpoenas seeking records about their investigations into whether Exxon Mobil misled investors about man-made climate change.
Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said he was disappointed that New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey refused to comply with subpoenas he issued two weeks ago.
In an escalating political fight over global warming, Smith is pursuing records from the two Democrats, along with nine environmental, scientific and philanthropic organisations. Schneiderman and Healey say Congress lacks authority over them.
Smith said Wednesday their noncompliance "only raises additional questions" and said "the committee will consider using all tools at its disposal to further its investigation".
A committee spokeswoman declined to elaborate on what options the panel has, but in previous disputes, the House has moved to hold in contempt of Congress those who refuse to comply with subpoenas. Lawmakers also may pursue enforcement of the subpoenas in court.
Schneiderman's lawyer called the July 13 subpoena unprecedented and said that enforcing the subpoena would interfere with Schneiderman's investigation into whether Dallas-based Exxon violated New York fraud statutes by suppressing its climate-change research.
"Congress? authority ends where states? sovereign rights begin," legal counsel Leslie Dubeck wrote.
Schneiderman's office subpoenaed Exxon documents last November following a year-long review of shareholder disclosures. New York's attorney general has authority under state law to investigate and prosecute securities fraud.
Exxon has rejected the allegations, saying it has conducted nearly 40 years of research publicly in conjunction with federal and United Nations officials, issued nearly 150 papers and provided shareholders with information about the business risks of climate change.