EUGENE, Ore., Dec. 30 (UPI) -- Exxon Mobil CEO and U.S. secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson should testify before the inauguration on his climate change knowledge, lawyers said.
Lawyers representing more than a dozen U.S. teens called on Tillerson to testify in a case arguing there is a "fundamental constitutional right to a climate system capable of sustaining human life." A notice to testify was served on Sidley Austin, a law firm representing the American Petroleum Institute, the National Association of Manufactures and the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers.
"Tillerson serves on the board of API and he and other Exxon executives also serve on the board of NAM. The youth plaintiffs seek to prove these trade associations have known about the dangers of climate change since the 1960s and have successfully worked to prevent the government from taking the necessary steps to fully address climate change," lawyers for Our Children's Trust said in a filing.
Tillerson has come under scrutiny since Donald Trump selected him to serve as the next U.S. secretary of state. The Exxon CEO joins a long list of business and political leaders with strong energy ties asked to join the incoming administration. Trump in a statement said Tillerson's "tenacity, broad experience and deep understanding of geopolitics" made him qualified to serve as the top U.S. diplomat, despite never serving in public office.
After his nomination, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., said he had concerns about Tillerson because of his close ties to Russia. Ties between the United States and Russia have soured in the waning days of President Obama's term in office and, by Booker's account, the incoming administration has "cozy ties to the Kremlin."
Journalism graduate students at Columbia started an investigation into Exxon records in early 2014 and then coordinated with the Los Angeles Times, which later reported that Exxon "publicly cast doubt" on the existence of global warming after years of leading climate research.
The debate caught the attention of the New York Attorney General's office, among others, which issued a subpoena to Exxon seeking clarity on the issue.
According to lawyers at Our Children's Trust, Tillerson would be asked about his knowledge as it relates to claims of a violation of constitutional rights of their defendants.
"We intend to use his deposition to uncover his and others' culpability, on behalf of these defendants," Julia Olson, attorney for the youth plaintiffs and executive director of Our Children's Trust, said in a statement.
Trump said the United States would become energy independent under his leadership. From the campaign trail, he said he doubted climate change was the result of human activity and vowed to pull the United States out of the Paris climate deal once in office.