New York State has ordered a probe into climate change disclosures by Exxon Mobil Corp, in what is being seen as the most aggressive step yet on the financial effects of burning fossil fuels.
In a subpoena issued to the company on Wednesday, New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman has called for a lengthy list of documents and disclosures, including communications with trade associations and industry groups, according a Reuters report, citing a person familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified as the probe was not public.
According to the person, the request sought information dating from the 1970s to the present.
The investigation is seeking information on whether the world's biggest oil explorer lied to investors and the public for around 40 years regarding the impact of climate change on profits, according to the person.
Exxon, with an output of 10 million gallons of gasoline and other fuels every hour of the day, counts among the world's largest sources of carbon-heavy energy.
Environmental activists hailed New York's action, and asked for more agencies to join the probe.
Schneiderman ''is leading the charge to further expose the hypocrisy of fossil fuel companies like Exxon Mobil and hold them accountable for denying climate change to the public and blocking necessary action for decades,'' Greenpeace spokesman Rodrigo Estrada said in an e-mailed statement.
''New York has taken the first step, now other attorneys general should follow suit to protect the rights of the American people against big polluters from lying to them about climate change and its impacts on our communities,'' it added.
Exxon yesterday said it was considering a response to the subpoena. The company had included information about the business risk of climate change for many years in its quarterly filings, corporate citizenship report and in other reports to shareholders, according to company spokesman Richard Keil.
The Exxon investigation might expand to other oil companies, according to the people with knowledge of the case, though no additional subpoenas have been issued, the newspaper said.
Sources told The New York Times that the attorney general's investigation got underway a year ago and encompassed company filings from the 1970s.
Meanwhile, Ken Cohen, vice president of public and government affairs at Exxon, has accused environmental groups of selectively highlighting facts.
He said yesterday that for nearly 40 years the company had worked with governments and universities to develop climate science in a transparent way.
Exxon Mobil had been working for years on several new mega oil and gas projects in places such as Abu Dhabi, Russia, Papua New Guinea, and the Gulf of Mexico in a bid to turn around what had been a steady and worrying decline in oil and gas production, AP reported earlier this year. (See: Eight major projects came online last year: Exxon Mobil).