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New York AG refuses to comply with U.S. House subpoena on Exxon probe

By Valerie Volcovici

WASHINGTON, July 26 (Reuters) - New York state's attorney general on Tuesday said his office will not comply with a subpoena issued by U.S. congressmen for details on its probe of whether Exxon Mobil misled investors on climate change risks, saying it interferes with the state's "sovereign" interests.

The move by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is the latest in the escalating political and legislative fight over Exxon Mobil and investigations on whether the oil giant knowingly misled shareholders and the public on climate change.

Earlier this month, the U.S. House of Representatives committee on science, space and technology issued subpoenas to Schneiderman and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healy to force them to submit information on their Exxon investigations, accusing the attorneys general of having a political agenda.

Schneiderman said his office refuses to comply with what he called an "unprecedented" subpoena for a state attorney general, and said the committee does not have a constitutional right to interfere with the states' probes.

"The subpoena brings us one step closer to a protracted, unnecessary legal confrontation, which will only distract and detract from the work of our respective offices," Schneiderman said in a 10-page letter to committee chair Lamar Smith of Texas that was posted online by Schneiderman's office.

"The Committee will use all tools at its disposal to further its investigation," said Kristina Baum, communications director for the House science committee.

Exxon declined to comment.

At a press conference on July 13, Smith, a Republican, accused Schneiderman and Healy, both Democrats, as well as a number of environmental groups, of "threatening" scientific debate about climate change and stifling the "free speech" of scientists who do not believe in climate change.

Schneiderman's investigation of Exxon Mobil began last year after separate reporting by online news publication Inside Climate News and the Los Angeles Times showed that Exxon worked to downplay the risks of climate change despite its own scientists' having raised concerns about it decades earlier.

Leslie Dubeck, counsel to Schneiderman, said in the letter that the AG's office would be willing to discuss the issue with the committee in a way that does not jeopardize New York state's sovereignty.

(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Dan Grebler)