COURT DEALS BLOW TO EXXON IN HEALEY SUIT

Boston Herald - - BIZ SMART -

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Maura Healey has been me­thod­i­cally work­ing on a case to find out what Exxon Mo­bil Corp. knew about the im­pact of burn­ing fos­sil fu­els — and when. This week, Healey inched closer to that goal when the U.S. Supreme Court re­fused to hear a bid by the com­pany meant to block the investigation by the Mas­sachusetts Demo­crat into whether the com­pany mis­led in­vestors and con­sumers about what it knew about the link be­tween fos­sil fu­els and cli­mate change. Healey is seek­ing doc­u­ments from the Irv­ing, Texas-based oil and gas gi­ant to find out whether it con­cealed key in­for­ma­tion. Mon­day’s de­ci­sion is the lat­est le­gal blow for Exxon Mo­bil. Last year the high­est court in Mas­sachusetts ruled the com­pany must hand over doc­u­ments sought by Healey. Healey wel­comed Mon­day’s de­ci­sion, say­ing it helps clear the way for her investigation of Exxon Mo­bil’s con­duct to­ward con­sumers and in­vestors. “The pub­lic de­serves an­swers from this com­pany about what it knew about the im­pacts of burn­ing fos­sil fu­els, and when,” Healey tweeted Mon­day. While an Exxon Mo­bil spokesman de­clined to com­ment on the court’s de­ci­sion, the com­pany has pushed back against the idea that its sci­en­tists and re­searchers knew that man-made emis­sions caused global cli­mate change in the 1970s and 1980s, but that the com­pany kept those find­ings se­cret. The com­pany called the al­le­ga­tions “man­u­fac­tured” on a post on its web­site. “Con­trary to their claims, ExxonMo­bil’s un­der­stand­ing of cli­mate change has tracked the sci­en­tific con­sen­sus on cli­mate change, and its re­search on the is­sue has been pub­lished in pub­licly avail­able peer-re­viewed jour­nals,” the com­pany said. The de­ci­sion not to hear Exxon Mo­bil’s case drew ap­plause from en­vi­ron­men­tal and other groups that have warned about the dan­gers of burn­ing fos­sil fu­els. “With this rul­ing, this long-de­layed investigation will fi­nally go for­ward, and yield the truth about what this com­pany knew, when it knew it, and why its pub­lic state­ments seem to be at odds with in­for­ma­tion pro­vided by the com­pany’s own sci­en­tists,” Union of Con­cerned Sci­en­tists Pres­i­dent Ken Kim­mell said in a state­ment af­ter the court’s de­ci­sion not to hear the case. The Mas­sachusetts Supreme Ju­di­cial Court ruled last year in fa­vor of Healey. Exxon Mo­bil had pre­vi­ously ar­gued that Mas­sachusetts lacks ju­ris­dic­tion be­cause the com­pany does not have a cor­po­rate pres­ence in the state and that Healey should be dis­qual­i­fied from the investigation be­cause of com­ments she made that Exxon Mo­bil says show bias against the com­pany — ar­gu­ments that were re­jected. Those look­ing at the case see prece­dent from a case spear­headed by an­other for­mer Mas­sachusetts at­tor­ney gen­eral — fel­low Demo­crat Scott Harsh­barger — who helped press for a his­toric set­tle­ment which forced the to­bacco in­dus­try to pay states bil­lions in Med­i­caid costs re­lated to car­ing for those suf­fer­ing from smok­ing-re­lated ill­nesses. Exxon Mo­bil has also pointed to the set­tle­ment, claim­ing that those go­ing af­ter the com­pany want to “use lit­i­ga­tion to gain ac­cess to in­ter­nal en­ergy in­dus­try doc­u­ments on cli­mate change, in hopes of cre­at­ing scan­dal that would force a set­tle­ment sim­i­lar in scope to the one reached with Big To­bacco.”

CHRISTO­PHER EVANS / HER­ALD STAFF FILE

RE­JECTED: The U.S. Supreme Court re­fused to hear a bid by Exxon Mo­bil to block an investigation by Mas­sachusetts At­tor­ney Gen­eral Maura Healey, above, into whether the com­pany mis­led the pub­lic about what it knew about the link be­tween fos­sil fu­els and cli­mate change.

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