Exxon Must Face Climate Change Suit From Mass. AG

A Massachusetts state judge has rejected ExxonMobil’s bid to toss claims that it intentionally deceived consumers and investors about the risks to its business posed by climate change — now they’ll have to face the suit brought on by the attorney general.

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Suffolk Superior Court Justice Karen Green found that Mass. Attorney General Maura Healey had presented sufficient evidence of a link between Texas-based Exxon and the Bay State to bring suit in her court. She also stated claims that Exxon lied to consumers by marketing its products as environmentally friendly could proceed, as could claims that the company misled investors by downplaying any climate-driven financial risks to its bottom line.

“To this day, Exxon is continuing to promote its fossil fuel products to consumers as good for the environment and misleading investors that demand for fossil fuels will remain strong for the foreseeable future,” Healey said in a statement. “We look forward to litigating the merits of our claims and stopping Exxon’s continued illegal deception.”

Healey originally sued Exxon in October 2019 after a three-year investigation into the company.

Justice Green found the consumer-related claims are sufficiently tied to the state because Exxon has more than 300 retail stores selling its products, and the state’s Supreme Judicial Court has determined that is enough to show that the company transacts business in Massachusetts.

Justice Green disagreed with Exxon’s argument that any statements it made about financial risks were not made in Massachusetts and therefore should not be part of Healey’s complaint. Exxon’s attempt to dismiss the case using an anti-SLAPP argument, a claim that the speech Healey takes issue with is protected speech on a matter of public concern, also fell flat in Justice Green’s eyes.

“Climate change is indisputably a matter that has attracted government attention. And, indeed, some Exxon statements referenced in the complaint constitute protected petitioning,” she wrote, adding that, in order to win on anti-SLAPP grounds, Exxon would have to show the suit is based solely on protected statements.

Exxon said it was disagrees with the decision and is considering its next legal steps.

“The case is without merit,”  Exxon representative, Casey Norton, said Wednesday, “and we look forward to defending the company. We are reviewing the court’s opinion and considering next steps.”

Healey, a Democrat widely thought to be contemplating a gubernatorial run in 2022, described the ruling as a “significant step” in her office’s work to hold Exxon accountable.

Exxon’s lawyers have called the timing of Healey’s suit suspicious, suggesting during a hearing on the dismissal motions that she may have “wanted some press.”

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