Massachusetts’ highest court on Tuesday rejected a bid by ExxonMobil to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the state that accuses the oil giant of misleading the public about the role its fossil fuels play in causing climate change.
The lawsuit 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.
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Massachusetts’ Supreme Judicial Court upheld a lower court ruling that rejected the company’s argument that a state law shielded it from the lawsuit.
A phone message seeking comment was left with Exxon, which has denied spreading disinformation about the contribution of fossil fuels to global warming.
In a congressional hearing last year, the company’s CEO, Darren Woods, told lawmakers that its public statements on climate “are and have always been truthful” and that Exxon has “long acknowledged the reality and risks of climate change” and “devoted significant resources to addressing those risks.″
The Massachusetts lawsuit says Exxon engaged in a “sophisticated, multi-million dollar campaign” to sow doubt in climate science and downplay the link between fossil fuels and climate change. The lawsuit says Exxon also undertook “greenwashing campaigns” in an effort to portray itself as environmentally responsible.
“Rather than honestly disclose and mitigate climate change risks, ExxonMobil’s misrepresentations about and failures to disclose those risks have delayed the needed transition to clean energy around the world and make these existential climate-driven threats to the global economy more likely to occur,” the complaint says.
Healey called the court’s ruling a “resounding victory” in the state’s efforts to “stop Exxon from lying to investors and consumers.”
“Exxon’s repeated attempts to stonewall our lawsuit have been baseless, and this effort was no different. We look forward to proceeding with our case and having our day in court to show how Exxon is breaking the law and to put an end to the deception once and for all,” she said in a statement.
Lawyers for Exxon argued in court documents that the company’s statements about climate change and energy policy were “protected petitioning activity” even if they were made to defend the company’s reputation.
But the top court said the law Exxon claimed should protect the company in this case doesn’t apply to government enforcement actions brought by the attorney general.
It’s the latest twist in years long battle between Massachusetts and Exxon. The company previously unsuccessfully sued Massachusetts in an effort to block Healey’s investigation into Exxon and climate change.
By: Alanna Durkin Richer
ExxonMobil said today it plans to grow shareholder value by delivering solutions that help meet the global need for energy and for lower greenhouse gas emissions to address climate change. Darren Woods, chairman and chief executive officer, outlined how the company’s strategy leverages its capabilities and competitive advantages at the annual meeting of shareholders.
- Annual Shareholders Meeting highlights company’s plans to play a leading role in the energy transition
- Strategy focused on five priorities to sustainably grow shareholder value
- Streamlined business structure to take advantage of technology, scale and integration
“We have opportunities to play a leading role in helping society achieve its net-zero ambitions and in meeting the world’s growing demand for energy and essential products,” said Woods. “Recent events have reminded us how globally connected energy markets are. They’ve also underscored the importance of our role in creating sustainable solutions that improve quality of life, while supporting a lower-emissions future.”
ExxonMobil in April streamlined its business structure to consist of three core businesses – Upstream, Product Solutions and Low Carbon Solutions – to fully leverage the company’s competitive advantages of scale, integration, technology, functional excellence and highly skilled workforce.
ExxonMobil is focused on five key strategic priorities to sustainably grow shareholder value:
- Leading industry in financial, operational and environmental performance, including across key metrics of safety, reliability, greenhouse gas emissions intensity reductions, earnings and cash flow growth.
- Being an essential partner through creation of innovative solutions for customers, partners and stakeholders.
- Upgrading the company’s advantaged portfolio to ensure it leads competition and delivers value across a range of external environments and through volatile and evolving markets.
- Continuing to innovate, providing solutions that meet the growing needs of society reliably and affordably. This means new products, technologies and approaches that better meet today’s and tomorrow’s needs and can be deployed at scale to create meaningful impact.
- Developing the company’s workforce and maintaining a diverse and engaged organization that provides every individual unrivalled opportunities for personal and professional growth with impactful work meeting society’s evolving needs.
Woods highlighted the company’s strong performance in 2021, noting that earnings significantly improved to $23 billion and cash flow from operating activities totaled $48 billion, the highest since 2012. Future plans include structural cost savings of $9 billion per year by 2023, compared to 2019, and more than $15 billion of investments through 2027 on initiatives to lower greenhouse gas emissions.
They include investments to reduce emissions from company operations and to advance critical technologies like carbon capture and storage, hydrogen and biofuels, which together are expected to develop into multi-trillion-dollar markets in the decades ahead.
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