Exxon Mobil Corp. went to court Wednesday to challenge a government investigation of whether the company conspired to cover up its understanding of climate change, a sign the energy company is gearing up for a drawn-out legal battle with environmentalists and officials on the politically charged issue.
Our view: If Exxon’s internal documents are consistent with its communications with shareholders, its response would not be so shrill and over the top. This statement from the filings is simply outrageous:
The chilling effect of this inquiry, which discriminates based on viewpoint to target one side of an ongoing policy debate, strikes at protected speech at the core of the First Amendment.
The investigation is intended to discover whether Exxon was acknowledging internally the risks of climate change while insisting publicly, including SEC filings and shareholder communications, that the risks were not significant. If this was the case, it would not be protected — or legal. Furthermore, it has nothing to do with a viewpoint or an ongoing policy debate. It is not about whether climate change is real or what its impact will be. It is about whether Exxon was candid — as it is required to be — about its own assessment of the rieks. It is about integrity and compliance. Exxon has previously admitted to secretly funding junk science to undermine the very policy debate it now purports to be defending. It is disappointing that they are doing so in the courts as well as the lab.