Supreme Court allows MA investigation of Exxon Mobile to go forward

The Supreme Court on Monday rejected (with no written explanation) an effort by oil giant Exxon Mobile to block an investigation by the State of Massachusetts’ Attorney General, Maura Healey, into whether the company misled the public and investors about how much it knew regarding whether its products increased the threat of climate change.  As a result,  Attorney General Healey can force the company to provide her decades of records about how it has dealt with the threat of climate change to the world and to its businesses.

  • The company argued that the State did not have the power to conduct such a sweeping investigation because Exxon Mobile does not base its operations in Massachusetts and the decisions in question were not made there.
  • Healy argued that Massachusetts law covered the company because of its “presence” in the state, like advertising and selling products there.
  • The Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled last April that the company had to comply with the investigation.
  • The Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers backed the company in their petition to the Supreme Court.

Several other similar lawsuits alleging investor fraud are pending in courts in New York and Texas, as well as a lawsuit brought by children alleging the government violated their Constitutional rights by failing to curb the oil companies’ greenhouse gas emissions.  

Why This Matters:  The Supreme Court has twice refused to step in and cut off novel climate change lawsuits in recent months. That they passed up the chance to stop these untested cases is telling.  Even if the cases are ultimately unsuccessful, the public will learn a great deal about the complicity of oil companies in our current climate predicament, which could hasten their desire to shift away from fossil fuels.  Moreover, the negative publicity these cases generate is bad for the oil companies, and for Congress and the Executive Branch as well, which are look anemic in the face of the growing challenges climate change presents the country.

To Go DeeperInside Climate News has a great summary of the many court challenges challenging the fossil fuel industry right now, both in the U.S. and abroad.

H/T to Inside Climate News for the generous $1M grant it received last night from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.  Wow!  That’s quite a pot of gold they picked up at the Golden Globes!

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