At least two major U.S. environmental organizations have been subpoenaed directly by ExxonMobil, as the fight heats up over what the fossil fuel behemoth knew, and hid, about climate change.
Both 350.org and the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS)—plus one individual UCS employee—received subpoenas from the oil giant on November 9 demanding documents and communications related to the ExxonKnew probe. Exxon is trying to quash investigations by state attorneys general into whether the company improperly deceived consumers, investors, and the public about climate change long after it knew the dangers.
"Clearly ExxonMobil is feeling the heat from legal, financial and public scrutiny into its ongoing climate deception and will stop at nothing to distract and delay investigations."
—Peter Frumhoff, Union of Concerned Scientists
But for both groups, the subpoenas are a sign they are on the right track.
"We must be doing something right to get subpoenaed by the world's largest oil company," said 350.org co-founder Jamie Henn on Wednesday, in the group's first public response.
"Clearly the revelations about Exxon's climate cover up have hit a nerve," he said. "Rather than admitting the truth, Exxon is trying to distract the public by directly attacking us. Instead they're just proving our point: when faced with an opportunity to come clean, Exxon is falling back on its long history of deceit, denial, and delay. We of course will continue to shine a spotlight on Exxon's climate crimes."
In a statement provided to Common Dreams, Peter Frumhoff, the UCS employee who was subpoenaed, added: "Clearly ExxonMobil is feeling the heat from legal, financial, and public scrutiny into its ongoing climate deception and will stop at nothing to distract and delay investigations. So we're not surprised the company chose to drag me and UCS into its court battle. No matter how much money and lawyering ExxonMobil throw at us, we will continue to stand strong for scientific integrity and ensure that policies and actions by public officials, including state attorneys general, are grounded in the best available science."
Indeed, a memo (pdf) from 350.org attorney Abbe David Lowell dated November 23 outlined the group's objections to each of the subpoena's 12 requests and said as a result of the stated objections, 350.org "will not produce any documents."
In addition to infringing on the group's First Amendment rights, the memo suggests the subpoena's scope is "overly broad" and "unduly burdensome."
Reporting in November indicated that Exxon had sent letters to "a variety of non-governmental organizations to preserve all communications regarding climate change investigations with a sweeping array of other groups and individuals—including members of the press," according to the Washington Post. The Post named UCS and the Rockefeller Family Fund as among the groups who received such letters.
Greenpeace, one of the major organizations included in the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee's round of subpoenas, told Common Dreams on Wednesday it has not been subpoenaed by Exxon.