Exxon Mobil wins a round in climate litigation

DALLAS (AP) — Exxon Mobil Corp. won an early round Wednesday in its fight against regulators over whether the oil giant covered up what it knew about climate change.

The U.S. Virgin Islands attorney general agreed to drop a subpoena for company records. In exchange, Exxon asked a federal court to dismiss a counter-lawsuit that the company filed against the U.S. territory.

Officials in New York and Massachusetts also issued subpoenas. Exxon is seeking to have the Massachusetts subpoena thrown out but has not yet challenged New York’s.

Environmentalists and regulators charge that the largest U.S. oil company hid its understanding of a link between climate change and the burning of oil and gas. Exxon denies that it suppressed findings from its own research that dates back decades.

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In March, Virgin Islands Attorney General Claude Earl Walker said he was investigating whether Exxon broke a racketeering law ordinarily used in fraud cases. He sought more than four decades’ worth of company documents. Exxon responded by suing the island territory.

Late Wednesday, both sides agreed to drop the issue in a joint filing in federal district court in Fort Worth.

However, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and officials in other states are pressing ahead, claiming that Exxon knew the risks posed by climate change but tried to undermine the scientific consensus about the role of fossil fuel. They are seeking communication between Exxon and climate-change skeptics.

Exxon, which is based in Irving, Texas, argues that the investigations are politically motivated and limit its right to speak about a public issue. Its supporters say the company is a victim of political correctness around the climate-change issue.

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Exxon shares rose $1.55 to close Wednesday at $92.46. They have gained 19 percent in 2016, helped by a rally in oil prices from late January to early June.