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Massachusetts Judge Won’t Dismiss Climate Change Suit Against ExxonMobil

— June 24, 2021

State Attorney General Maura Healey has hailed the ruling as yet another victory in Massachusetts’ fight against climate change.

A Massachusetts state judge will not grant ExxonMobil’s request to dismiss a lawsuit spearheaded by state Attorney General Maura Healey.

As has reported before, Healey is one of several state attorneys general who have accused ExxonMobil and other oil and gas companies of misleading consumers and investors about the industry’s role in climate change.

According to The Hill, Healey further accused ExxonMobil of knowing the risks of global warming for decade. Despite its alleged knowledge, ExxonMobil concealed information from the public, pretending that its products were somehow good for the environment.

Nevertheless, ExxonMobil alleged that Healey’s lawsuit intended to silence the company and prevent it from espousing its own, alternate views on man-made global warming.

Air pollution at sunrise; image by SD-Pictures, via Pixabay, CC0.
Air pollution at sunrise; image by SD-Pictures, via Pixabay, CC0.

But on Wednesday, Massachusetts Superior Court Justice Karen Green said ExxonMobil failed to demonstrate that Healey’s suit—filed in 2019—intended to stifle opposing perspectives on climate change.

“Climate change indisputably is a topic that has attracted government attention,” Green wrote in her decision. “It was apparent from the context in which they were made that many Exxon statements referenced in the complaint are not protected.”

Green also said that misleading commercial statements are not necessarily protected by the First Amendment.

“Commercial speech is protected by the First Amendment if it concerns lawful activity and is not misleading,” she wrote. “Here, the Commonwealth alleges that Exxon made misleading statements to consumers and investors in violation of [the state consumer protection act]. The court is not in a position, at least at this stage, to determine whether any particular statement is protected by the First Amendment.”

ExxonMobil, for its part, says that it continues to defend itself.

“This case lacks merit,” company spokesperson Casey Norton told Reuters, “and we look forward to defending the company. We are reviewing the court’s opinion and considering next steps”

Healey, however, has celebrated the court’s decision as yet another victory in Massachusetts’ fight against global warming.

“Today’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,” Healey said. “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.”


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