Coming to the aid of a powerful Texas oil and gas company in a case involving climate change science, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Thursday filed a brief in federal court in New York supporting ExxonMobil’s efforts to stave off an investigation by attorneys general in New York and Massachusetts.
Paxton’s friend-of-the-court brief in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, argues the ExxonMobil investigation has amounted to a fishing expedition that impinges on the company’s free speech protections.
Attorneys general from New York, Massachusetts and elsewhere, supported by environmental groups, said last year they would investigate whether the company lied to investors and the public about the threat of climate change.
Exxon is trying to block efforts by the Massachusetts and New York officials to subpoena company documents related to the marketing and sale of its products.
In their friend-of-the-court brief, Paxton and 10 other state attorneys general ask the court to side with Exxon.
“The Constitution was written to protect citizens from government witch-hunts such as this one, where officials use their authority and the threat of criminal prosecution to try and suppress speech on a viewpoint they disagree with,” Paxton said.
In his suit, Paxton writes: “Defendants falsely presume that the scientific debate regarding climate change is settled, along with the related and equally important debate on how to respond to what science has found.”
In fact, the vast majority of scientists who study the issue have said the climate is changing and industrial emissions play a part.
The other states who joined the amicus brief are Louisiana, South Carolina, Alabama, Michigan, Arizona, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Utah and Arkansas.
The case marks at least the second time Paxton has intervened in the case on behalf of Exxon.
Last year, Paxton withdrew a lawsuit against the U.S. Virgin Islands attorney general after he agreed to suspend his investigation, which had included a far-reaching subpoena for ExxonMobil records that Paxton had argued was unconstitutional.
Earlier this year, Paxton said that he had sued after talking the matter over with other members of the Republican Attorneys General Association.
The Republican Attorneys General Association has received at least $110,000 from Exxon Mobil since 2014, according to records compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, and at least $2 million from the fossil fuel industry.