Exxon Mobil, the largest producer of natural gas in the United States, has been accused of suppressing in-house evidence of global climate change, according to the BBC.
New York’s attorney general has sent the company a request for internal information, including emails and financial records. The company has yet to comply as of this writing. However, Exxon Mobil has stated that the allegations are “inaccurate distortions.”
“We unequivocally reject the allegations that Exxon Mobil has suppressed climate change research,” said Kenneth P. Cohen, vice president for public affairs at Exxon Mobil. Cohen also said that the company has staunchly supported climate research since the 1970s.
This subpoena comes on the heels of allegations in October that the company’s in-house scientists had determined the presence and impact of climate change several decades prior to its entrance into the public stream of consciousness, but that the company suppressed the results of the studies.
According to the New York Times, several people have spoken under the condition of anonymity regarding the case, saying that the investigation could spread to multiple other large fossil fuel companies, and that attorney generals from other states may serve Exxon their own information requests. No further subpoenas have been issued as of this writing.
“This could open up years of litigation and settlements in the same way that tobacco litigation did, also spearheaded by attorneys general,” said Brandon L. Garrett, a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law in an interview with the Times. “In some ways, the theory is similar — that the public was misled about something dangerous to health. Whether the same smoking guns will emerge, we don’t know yet.”
In a separate case, Peabody Energy, the largest coal producer in the U.S., has reportedly been under investigation by the attorney general for the past two years into its potential suppression of climate change information. This investigation has not been reported until present, and thus far has not resulted in charges for the company.