Attorneys general from Massachusetts and the Virgin Islands announced Tuesday that they will follow the lead of California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris and New York Atty. Gen. Eric Schneiderman and launch their own independent investigations into whether Exxon Mobil Corp. misled investors and the public about climate change risks.
Massachusetts Atty. Gen. Maura Healey said at a news conference in New York that her office had a moral obligation to act.
"Part of the problem has been one of public perception," Healey said. "Certain companies, certain industries, may not have told the whole story."
Seventeen states and territories — including Vermont, Maryland, Virginia, Connecticut and the District of Columbia — are working together to explore legal avenues for fighting climate change, said Schneiderman, who led the event.
A spokeswoman for Exxon said in a statement that the investigations were baseless.
"The allegations leveled against Exxon Mobil again today are politically motivated and based on discredited reporting funded by activist organizations," Suzanne McCarron said. "We are actively assessing all legal options."
McCarron said suggestions that the company had reached conclusions about human-caused climate change decades ago and then withheld them from the public are "preposterous." Instead, she said the company's scientists were fully engaged in climate change research, adding that Exxon recognizes the risks posed by a warming atmosphere.
Last November, Schneiderman's office subpoenaed Exxon for documents related to its climate change research dating to the 1970s. Schneiderman's office also demanded files concerning business decisions the company made that were influenced by its knowledge of climate change.
Schneiderman's subpoena was announced in the aftermath of published reports in the Los Angeles Times and Inside Climate News, which showed that Exxon incorporated climate change research into its business operations while making public statements disputing the very same science.
Phillis is a reporter with Columbia University's Energy & Environmental Reporting project.