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Judge denies ExxonMobil requests to dismiss AG’s lawsuit

A Superior Court judge on Wednesday denied two requests from ExxonMobil Corp. to dismiss a lawsuit brought by Attorney General Maura Healey.
A Superior Court judge on Wednesday denied two requests from ExxonMobil Corp. to dismiss a lawsuit brought by Attorney General Maura Healey.Don Ryan/Associated Press

A Superior Court judge on Wednesday denied two requests from ExxonMobil Corp. to dismiss a lawsuit brought by Attorney General Maura Healey alleging that the company deceived Massachusetts consumers and investors about the impact of climate change, court documents show.

Judge Karen F. Green refused to dismiss the case, which alleges ExxonMobil misrepresented important facts about climate change, exaggerated the supposed environmental benefits of some of its products, and downplayed financial risks to the company, according to court filings.

Healey said that Green’s “rulings represent a significant step forward for my office’s work to hold Exxon accountable for lying to Massachusetts consumers about the climate harms of using its fossil fuel products and to Massachusetts investors about the negative impact of climate change on the value of its business.”

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“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,” she said in a statement.

Representatives for ExxonMobil could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday evening.

Healey’s office filed its suit against ExxonMobil in October 2019, alleging violations of the state’s consumer and investor protection laws and related regulations. The corporation called the claims baseless.

Healey and 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.

As early as 1982, she said, the company’s scientists predicted the precise amount of carbon dioxide that would be in the atmosphere in 2019, which has reached as much as 415 parts per million, the highest level in human history. That surge in heat-trapping gas has been attributed to the increasing use of fossil fuels.

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In internal documents, one of the company’s scientists described the consequences of climate change as “catastrophic,” she said.

ExxonMobil officials also recognized decades ago that reducing emissions would require “sharply curtailing the use of fossil fuels,” she said.

Healey also alleged the company has hidden from investors its own knowledge of the risk climate change has posed to the global economy and its fossil fuel business.

Citing internal documents from 1980, Healey alleged that an expert retained by ExxonMobil presented findings that the projected rise in global temperatures from using fossil fuels would have “major economic consequences” and “bring world economic growth to a halt.”


Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.