The world’s largest oil and gas company, ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM), is taking the offensive against activists suing it over climate change by filing a countersuit.
The state of New York, multiple cities, including San Francisco and Santa Cruz, Calif., along with other California counties, are suing Exxon. Many allege it and other companies in the industry, have known about – and tried to obscure – the damaging effects of climate change from burning the fossil fuels the industry brings to market.
But Exxon says that lawyers have conspired against it to further political agendas, even citing a coordinated strategy known as the “La Jolla playbook,” which it says was developed at a conference in the namesake city and carried out by multiple attorneys general “to restrict the scope of permissible public debate about climate change.”
Exxon’s suit alleges abuse of process, civil conspiracy and violations of its constitutional rights.
“A collection of special interests and opportunistic politicians are abusing law enforcement authority and legal process to impose their viewpoint on climate change,” Exxon’s lawsuit reads. “This conspiracy emerged out of frustration in New York, Massachusetts, and California with voters in other parts of the country and with the federal government for failing to adopt their preferred policies on climate change … ExxonMobil finds itself directly in that conspiracy’s crosshairs.”
The company is also a target of investigations by the attorneys general of both New York and Massachusetts, who are looking into whether Exxon misled shareholders about how its operations impact the environment. The attorney general from Texas withdrew a subpoena when legally challenged by Exxon.
“This move by ExxonMobil is very unusual, and demonstrates how far the company is willing to go in order to push back on allegations it somehow engaged in an environmental cover up,” Seth Berenzweig, founding and managing partner of law firm Berenzweig Leonard, told FOX Business. “There is ordinarily nothing wrong with concerned citizens coming together at a meeting in San Diego to talk about legal strategies on countering climate control, unless they reach an agreed plan to commit abuse of legal process, which is unlikely here. ExxonMobil has a huge hurdle to climb in order to win its legal claims.”
Meanwhile, the oil industry is facing pressure from mounting concerns over the environment. Earlier this month, ExxonMobil said it expects global oil demand to drop 0.4% each year through 2040 if further regulations aimed at curbing the effects of greenhouse gases are implemented. Overall, that would amount to a 25% decrease in demand compared with current levels. In this report, the company did not say how its business would be impacted under those circumstances.
President Donald Trump pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord in June 2017, though the White House has said it would consider re-entering under different terms. Many states and cities have said they would still comply with regulations set forth in the global agreement.
ExxonMobil recently announced plans to spend $50 billion on U.S. projects over the coming five years as a result of the GOP’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which reduced the corporate tax rate by 14 percentage points and aims to ease the regulatory burden on U.S. companies.
The company did not immediately respond to FOX Business’ request for comment regarding its lawsuit.