U.S. Virgin Islands to withdraw subpoena in climate probe into Exxon
By Terry Wade HOUSTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Virgin Islands’ attorney general on Wednesday agreed to withdraw a sweeping subpoena issued against Exxon Mobil Corp as part of a push by a coalition of state prosecutors to try to investigate whether the world’s largest publicly traded oil company misled the public about climate change risks.
“After conferring on the matter, the parties mutually agreed that Attorney General Walker will withdraw the subpoena and Exxon Mobil will stipulate to the dismissal without prejudice of this action,” read a filing in U.S. district court signed by lawyers from both sides. U.S. Virgin Islands’ Attorney General Claude Walker filed a subpoena in March seeking decades of documents related to Exxon’s climate science and commentary. Exxon, which has said that it has acknowledged the reality of climate change for years, called the subpoena unreasonably burdensome and intrusive. It also raised questioned about jurisdiction. The oil company has been locked in tangles with opponents of fossil fuels for months in fights that have spilled over into U.S. Congress and shareholder meetings. In a bid to try to force action on climate change, about 17 state attorneys general said in March they would jointly investigate whether Exxon executives misled the public by contradicting research from company scientists that spelled out the threats of global warming. But so far only a few of them have filed subpoenas. The one from the U.S. Virgin Islands was notably bold because it tried to invoke the territory’s anti-racketeering laws, which are similar to U.S. Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). Since as far back as 2012 some environmental groups have talked about whether RICO laws could be used against the fossil fuel industry the way they were successfully applied against Big Tobacco. On March 22 Walker filed the subpoena, and Exxon started filing a series of motions to have it thrown out on April 13. Then both sides entered talks. The case is No. 4:16-CV-00364-K in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Fort Worth Division.