Judge rules that Exxon can’t stop probe into whether they lied for decades about the impact of climate change

Exxon is the largest oil and gas company in the world 

Clark Mindock
New York
Friday 13 April 2018 16:28 BST
Protesters are pictured near an Exxon gas station in Washington in 2017
Protesters are pictured near an Exxon gas station in Washington in 2017 (Getty)

A Massachusetts judge has ruled that ExxonMobil cannot stop a probe into whether the oil giant misled shareholders for decades about the dangers of climate change and its impact on their business.

The judge, in a Friday ruling, found that Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has grounds to pursue its civil investigation into the matter even though Exxon is not technically an in-resident corporation.

The judgement follows after a federal judge in New York dismissed a similar lawsuit aimed at ending the climate change probe late last month. In that lawsuit, Exxon argued that Ms Healey and her New York counterpart, Eric Schneiderman, were pursuing their climate probes in bad faith. The judge dismissed the argument as "implausible".

"For the second time this month, Exxon's scorched earth campaign to block our investigation has been entirely rejected by the courts. In its decision today, our state's highest court affirmed that Exxon is subject to our laws, and that our office has authority to investigate," Ms Healey said in a statement following the decision. "Now Exxon must come forward with the truth, what it knew about climate change, when, and what it told the world. The people of Massachusetts — and people everywhere — deserve answers."

New York and Massachusetts first began their climate change probes after news reports in 2015 found that Exxon had known for years that reducing greenhouse gas emissions is necessary to combat climate change impacts, but did not reveal those concerns to shareholders or the public.

Exxon has denied that their public policies were in any way inconsistent with what their scientists' findings that climate change poses a serious risk to its business and to the environment.

While Exxon has gone after the attorneys general in New York and Massachusetts, as many as 15 states are involved in investigating the company for potentially misleading the public about climate change.

Those states first began their investigations in 2016, shortly after the news reports. At the time, officials in the states came together to sign a private compact not to discuss the Exxon probe with anyone outside of their teams, unless compelled to do so legally.

The states said then that their goal was to investigate ways in which they could use federal law to enforce greenhouse gas emissions guidelines, and to investigate whether the fossil fuel industry had broken laws in order to slow or stop the implementation of renewable energy technologies.

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