Exxon Mobil loses appeal over climate change probes
NEW YORK (Reuters) – A federal appeals court on Tuesday rejected Exxon Mobil Corp’s effort to stop Massachusetts and New York from probing whether the oil company lied to investors and the public regarding what it knew about climate change.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan said Exxon could not sue Massachusetts’ Attorney General Maura Healey in federal court because it was pursuing the same case in Massachusetts state courts.
It also said Exxon’s federal case against New York Attorney General Letitia James was moot after a state judge in December 2019 dismissed her lawsuit against the company following a non-jury trial, and she did not appeal.
Exxon argued that its federal claims should continue because Healey’s “viewpoint bias” violated its constitutional free speech rights under the First Amendment, while James kept defending her office’s conduct and could choose to sue again.
The company had sued Massachusetts and New York in June 2016 after receiving subpoenas for documents about its understanding of climate change and communications with shareholders. It was appealing from a March 2018 dismissal of that case.
Neither Exxon nor its lawyers immediately responded to requests for comment. Healey’s and James’ offices did not immediately respond to similar requests.
Exxon has in the last several years faced many lawsuits claiming it downplayed how its fossil fuel products affected climate change and how climate regulation affected its business, in order to boost public sentiment, profit and its stock price.
The Irving, Texas-based company has long maintained that climate change risks are real, and it wanted to be part of any solution.
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, that state’s highest court, in March 9 oral arguments appeared cool to Exxon’s claim that Healey was illegally stifling its speech.
The case is Exxon Mobil Corp v Healey et al, 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 18-1170.
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