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27 Oct 2021

Michael Hiltzik, The Los Angeles Times

Column: Exxon Mobil is using a bizarre Texas rule to harass a California beach city

... [W]hen Exxon Mobil pleads in court that [Imperial Beach Mayor Serge] Dedina and his city have been engaged in a nearly decade-long conspiracy to stifle its 1st Amendment free-speech rights, that’s a claim that should make you go, “Hmm.” Exxon Mobil has made that assertion in the course of its effort to use a bizarre Texas courthouse rule allowing a would-be litigant to demand depositions and documents from potential targets without first filing a lawsuit. The oil company has asked the Texas courts to order compliance from Dedina and 14 other California municipal officials.

What put them on Exxon Mobil’s enemies list is that they represent California cities and counties that have sued Exxon Mobil and other oil companies over the consequences of global warming, which stems from the burning of the companies’ products.

... The oil company’s demands for depositions and documents are part of a long campaign by the fossil fuel industry to harass and intimidate its critics rather than meeting their criticisms head-on.

... Exxon Mobil alleges that the California officials were guilty of a Texas offense by trying to suppress “Texas-based speech about climate and energy policies.” That’s how the company put it in a brief filed with the Texas Supreme Court on Sept. 10.

... [ExxonMobil] asserts that the California lawsuits, along with cases brought by New York and Massachusetts attorneys general, are the product of a conspiracy hatched at a “conference of special interests” in La Jolla in June 2012. “The participants advocated for government investigations and litigation against energy companies to ‘pressure’ the targets to provide ‘support for legislative and regulatory responses to global warming,’” the company says.