A court case has landed Tarrant County in the middle of the national debate over climate change.
ExxonMobil filed papers in Tarrant County District Court this week, naming 16 California lawyers and public officials who are suing the Irving-based oil giant.
Several California cities, including San Francisco and Oakland, recently filed lawsuits, blaming the company for climate change and seeking billions of dollars in damages.
In a counterpunch, ExxonMobil said in its Tarrant County filing that it suspects the public officials of being part of a “conspiracy” that began about six years ago at a meeting in La Joya, California to damage the company.
“A collection of special interests and opportunistic politicians are abusing law enforcement authority and legal process to impose their viewpoint on climate change,” the company said in its Tarrant County petition. “ExxonMobil finds itself directly in that conspiracy’s crosshairs.”
Brant Martin, a Fort Worth attorney not involved in the case, said the company’s petition is not a lawsuit but could lead to one.
"What they are saying is, 'Judge, we have good reason to believe that these claims may be brought. Here's exactly who we want to depose, here's why we want to depose them, here's the information we think we are going to get from them,'" Martin said.
Exxon said the proper venue is Texas, not California.
"They may be afraid they are going to get a little home cooking against them if they file in California,” Martin said. “The home-field advantage cuts both ways."
California officials reacted strongly to the company’s filing.
“This is an outrageous abuse of the legal process,” said John Cote, a spokesman for the San Francisco city attorney’s office. “It's an attempted end run around the California courts that have jurisdiction over this matter. In other words, it's exactly what you would expect from a company like Exxon.”