Politics

Massachusetts climate change case against Exxon can proceed, court rules

The Massachusetts high court on Tuesday ruled that the US’s largest oil company, ExxonMobil, must face a trial over accusations that it lied about the climate crisis and covered up the fossil fuel industry’s role in worsening environmental devastation.

Massachusetts’ Supreme Judicial Court on Tuesday rejected a bid by ExxonMobil to dismiss the lawsuit.

The case, which was filed in 2019 by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey alleges Exxon launched an effort, “reminiscent of the tobacco industry’s long denial campaign about the dangerous effects of cigarettes,” to deceive consumers and investors about climate change.

A lower court ruling previously rejected the company’s argument that a state law shielded it from the lawsuit. The state’s Supreme Judicial Court upheld that ruling on Tuesday.

A phone message seeking comment was left with Exxon, which has denied spreading disinformation about the contribution of fossil fuels to global warming. The company has previously called lawsuits attempting to hold it responsible for climate change disinformation “baseless and without merit.”

Exxon claimed the lawsuit was in breach of legislation against what are known as strategic lawsuits against public participation, or Slapps, used by wealthy individuals and corporations to silence critics. The Massachusetts court ruled that anti-Slapp laws do not apply to government cases.

Healey, who is running for governor, hailed the ruling as “a resounding victory in our work to stop Exxon from lying to investors and consumers in our state.”

At least 10 other federal courts across the country have rejected the industry’s attempts to get similar cases out of the state systems.

Richard Wiles, president of the Center for Climate Integrity, welcomes the latest ruling to keep the process in state courts.

“The ruling is a major victory for Rhode Island, which is now one step closer to putting oil and gas corporations on trial for fuelling the climate crisis, lying about it, and then sticking the state’s taxpayers with the bill for the damages,” he said. “Four circuit courts in a row have now handed major defeats to big oil companies in these cases, rejecting the industry’s efforts to escape accountability.”

So far this year, federal appeals courts made similar rulings in Colorado, Maryland and California.

ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH 

MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE

PHOTO CREDITS: THE GUARDIAN

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Paul, 37, is from Scotland in the UK, but currently lives and works in Bangkok. Paul has worked in different industries such as telemarketing, retail, hospitality, farming, insurance, and teaching, where he works now. He teaches at an all-girls High School in Bangkok. “It’s a lot of work, but I love my job.” Paul has an active interest in politics. His reason for writing for FBA is to offer people the facts and allow them to make up their own minds. Whilst he believes opinion columns have their place, it is also important that people can have accurate news with no bias.

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