U.S. State Department nominee Tillerson fights climate deposition

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By Emily Flitter | NEW YORK

NEW YORK Rex Tillerson, the former oil executive
under consideration for U.S. secretary of state, is trying to
avoid giving testimony in a federal lawsuit over climate change,
according to a lawyer for a group of teenagers who filed the
suit.

Lawyers for the teenagers, who sued the federal government
claiming it violated their constitutional rights by causing
global warming, were scheduled to depose Tillerson, the former
chief executive of Exxon Mobil, in his capacity as a
board member of the American Petroleum Institute, a trade group.

The lawyers planned to ask Tillerson when he first learned
of the impact the burning of fossil fuels was having on the
Earth’s atmosphere.

His answers might then be used to prove the government,
working with the energy and manufacturing industries, continued
to allow activities harmful to the environment despite knowing
the risks to future generations, said Julia Olson, a lawyer in
Eugene, Oregon, who is executive director of Our Children’s
Trust and representing the teenagers.

Tillerson’s deposition was set for Jan. 19, a day before
President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration.

But Olson said the API’s lawyers told her by telephone that
Tillerson should not have to testify because he is no longer
affiliated with the group. Her team has asked API to prove
Tillerson had left the group on Dec. 28, when they sent notice
of their intent to depose him.

“If he was still on the board on the date of notice of
deposition, he can still be deposed,” Olson said.

The lawsuit, brought in federal court in Oregon, says the
U.S. government helped to cause climate change through its
policies, thus denying a group of young people their
constitutional right to life, liberty and property.

The API and two other industry groups intervened in the
case, claiming a judgment requiring the government to tighten
environmental regulations would harm their business interests.

Tillerson announced he was retiring from ExxonMobil on Dec.
14, a day after Trump announced his nomination as secretary of
state. The API has not announced any change to Tillerson’s role
in its organization, but its president released a statement
congratulating Tillerson on his nomination on Dec. 13.

An API spokesman, lawyers for the API and a spokesman for
the Trump transition team did not immediately respond to a
request for comment.

The case is Juliana v. U.S., U.S. District Court, District
of Oregon (Eugene), No. 15-cv-01517.



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