Exxon Countersues the Lawyers Suing It Over Climate Change

The rare move is meant to intimidate, critics say.

Joe D'Allegro

ExxonMobil has launched countersuits against organizations and individuals that have the sued it over climate change.

"The company has targeted at least 30 people and organizations, including the attorneys general of New York and Massachusetts, hitting them with suits, threats of suits or demands for sworn depositions," Bloomberg reported. Exxon claims that it was singled out for not "toeing the line on climate change, even though it agrees with the scientific consensus" according to the article by attorney and reporter Bob Van Voris. The suit alleges that the group conspired against it in a coordinated legal and public relations campaign.

New York City, San Francisco and other U.S. cities and counties have sued oil and gas companies such as Exxon for denying climate change science, and state attorney generals in New York and Massachusetts are investigating whether the company defrauded stockholders and consumers by covering up information on climate change.

Bloomberg noted that the oil giant's pursuit of the lawyers suing it is a rarely seen tactic.

"People often try to use litigation to change the cultural conversation," University of Connecticut School of Law professor Alexandra Lahav told Bloomberg. "Exxon is positioning itself as a victim rather than a perpetrator."

Exxon, which was previously helmed by current U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, contends a group "of special interests and opportunistic politicians are abusing law enforcement authority and legal process to impose their viewpoint on climate change," in a deposition it filed earlier this year in the District Court of Tarrant County, Texas. 

"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. Even though it has long acknowledged the risks presented by climate change, supported the Paris climate accords, and backed a revenue-neutral carbon tax, ExxonMobil has nevertheless been targeted by state and local governments for pretextual investigations and litigation intended to cleanse the public square of alternative viewpoints."

Though a handful of state-controlled oil conglomerates—such as the Saudi Arabian Oil Company and China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation—are bigger, Texas-based ExxonMobil remains the world’s largest publicly-traded oil and gas company by market value, according to Fortune.