Conclusions from an early 80s vintage Exxon Briefing on Climate Change


ExxonMobil has sued Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey over her investigation into whether the energy giant lied about climate change to mislead its shareholders and the public.

Exxon’s complaint was filed Wednesday in federal district court in Fort Worth, Texas. Healey’s office has subpoenaed millions of documents from the company going back four decades, and Exxon claims Healey is “abusing the power of government to silence a speaker she disfavors.”

The complaint argues that Healey’s investigation violates the First and Fourth amendments of the U.S. Constitution, which protect free speech and prohibit unreasonable searches; that the investigation violates Massachusetts’ four-year statute of limitations; and that the company does not do business in the state.

Cyndi Roy Gonzalez, a spokesperson for Healey’s office, said the First Amendment “does not protect false and misleading statements in the marketplace” and that “Exxon’s assertion that we cannot investigate it because the company has not engaged in business here in Massachusetts is completely preposterous.”

Charlie Pierce in Esquire:

The legal war on decades of disinformation is being waged on many fronts. Here in the Commonwealth (God save it!), attorney general Maura Healey is being sued by poor little embattled Exxon for trying to “intimidate” the company through her demand for the documents proving that the struggling small business had been lying about its complicity in demolishing the planet. We are flirting dangerously close to the classic law-school definition of “chutzpah” here. Per DeSmog:

In its 33-page filing against Massachusetts AG Healey, Exxon lays out what it sees as the “facts” about the efforts of Attorneys General to prudently investigate the company’s historical relationship with climate science.

The first of the “Facts” that ExxonMobil lays out in making its case is that 20 Attorneys General, led by New York AG Eric Schneiderman, held a press conference in New York City dubbed “AGs United for Clean Power.”

The horrors! Yes, this is in fact… a fact. Twenty courageous AGs bravely stepped in front of cameras and microphones — a press conference! — to rail against Washington gridlock on climate policy and announce their leadership efforts to find ways to hold the oil industry accountable for its insidious work to block climate policy action at the federal and state levels over the past several decades.

So Exxon’s first “fact” oddly confirms the legitimate and ordinary efforts of state AGs to work together to get things done in the absence of Washington leadership. In short, to identify and hold accountable those who have encouraged doubt and distraction in order to delay action on the most pressing issue of our time.


Over the ensuing five pages of its Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief, Exxon proceeds to list 34 more “facts” that rehash the details of the March 29, 2016 press conference. Seriously, five pages of quotes and ‘facts’ pulled from a very public, YouTubed press conference… imagine the hourly rate these Exxon attorneys earned for transcribing cherry-picked quotes?

So let’s sum this up – here we have a frivolous SLAPP-like lawsuit filed by a massive multinational oil company in an industry-friendly Texas jurisdiction seeking the court’s heavy-handed smackdown of a totally reasonable investigation (known in legal parlance as a Civil Investigative Demand or CID) launched by the attorneys general of 17 states. Read the rest of this entry »


Pope Francis’ visit to the US catalyzed the growing sense across the country, and across the globe, that climate change is, above all, a moral issue.

More and more scientists have realized that speaking to this moral dimension is far more persuasive than speaking the language of science and fact, as compelling as those are.  Most people simply respond better to an issue that is framed in moral terms.


The emerging story of what Exxon knew, and when they knew it, shows that the differences have never really been about the science questions – even the major oil companies knew the basic science truths 4 decades ago.  They simply made a moral decision that the lives of the next ten thousand generations of human beings were not as important as their own profits, and we are now witnessing the early impacts of that decision.