SJC hands Maura Healey a victory in ExxonMobil climate change case

 

The state’s highest court Friday dismissed a bid by ExxonMobil to prevent Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey from investigating whether the oil giant covered up its knowledge about the role its products have played in warming the planet and lied to the public.

Last year, a lower court judge ruled that ExxonMobil must turn over 40 years of documents on climate change, which the company appealed.

In a unanimous decision upholding the lower court’s order, the state Supreme Judicial Court rejected the company’s arguments that Healey was biased and that state courts lacked jurisdiction in the case.

“We conclude that there is personal jurisdiction over Exxon with respect to the attorney general’s investigation, and that the judge did not abuse her discretion in denying Exxon’s requests,” the court ruled.

Healey, along with the attorney general of New York, launched probes into ExxonMobil after news reports in 2015 suggested the company had encouraged climate-change confusion for years after its own scientists knew about the dangers of burning fossil fuels.

In March 2016, Healey issued a “civil investigative demand” seeking information under state consumer protection law, arguing ExxonMobil may have deceived Massachusetts consumers and investors. In response, the company sued Healey in federal and state courts.

In January 2017, Suffolk Superior Court Judge Heidi Brieger dismissed the lawsuit and ordered the company to comply with Healy’s order. Last month, a federal district court judge in New York also dismissed ExxonMobil’s federal lawsuit.

“In its decision today, our state’s highest court affirmed that Exxon is subject to our laws, and that our office has the authority to investigate,” Healey said in a statement. “Now Exxon must come forward with the truth — what it knew about climate change, when, and what it told the world.”

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The state’s highest court Friday dismissed a bid by ExxonMobil to prevent Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey from investigating whether the oil giant covered up its knowledge about the role its products have played in warming the planet and lied to the public.

Last year, a lower court judge ruled that ExxonMobil must turn over 40 years of documents on climate change, which the company appealed.

In a unanimous decision upholding the lower court’s order, the state Supreme Judicial Court rejected the company’s arguments that Healey was biased and that state courts lacked jurisdiction in the case.

“We conclude that there is personal jurisdiction over Exxon with respect to the attorney general’s investigation, and that the judge did not abuse her discretion in denying Exxon’s requests,” the court ruled.

Healey, along with the attorney general of New York, launched probes into ExxonMobil after news reports in 2015 suggested the company had encouraged climate-change confusion for years after its own scientists knew about the dangers of burning fossil fuels.

In March 2016, Healey issued a “civil investigative demand” seeking information under state consumer protection law, arguing ExxonMobil may have deceived Massachusetts consumers and investors. In response, the company sued Healey in federal and state courts.

In January 2017, Suffolk Superior Court Judge Heidi Brieger dismissed the lawsuit and ordered the company to comply with Healy’s order. Last month, a federal district court judge in New York also dismissed ExxonMobil’s federal lawsuit.

“In its decision today, our state’s highest court affirmed that Exxon is subject to our laws, and that our office has the authority to investigate,” Healey said in a statement. “Now Exxon must come forward with the truth — what it knew about climate change, when, and what it told the world.”

READ MORE IN THE BOSTON GLOBE