Exxon mobile has been ordered to hand over 4 decades worth of documents related to climate change, in a major blow to the company in its ongoing legal battle. The ruling by a Massachusetts judge is a major success for the state’s attorney general, Maura Healey, in her investigation into Exxon’s knowledge of the relationship between fossil fuels and climate change, and whether the company hid this information from the public.
In a statement to the Boston Globe, Healey said:
“Exxon must now end its obstructive tactics and come clean about whether it misled Massachusetts consumers and investors about what it knew about climate change, its causes and effects.”
A spokesperson for Exxon Mobil said the company was reviewing the ruling, which was made on January 12th.
Healey and Eric Schneiderman, New York’s attorney general, began their investigation last year after a number of media outlets alleged that Exxon Mobil was aware of climate change for decades, propagating doubt and hiding their knowledge from the public.
In turn, Exxon Mobil filed a lawsuit against Healey, claiming that the investigation was politically motivated, and that the attorney general was acting outside her jurisdiction.
In October, the company said that the attorney generals “are incapable of impartial investigations and are attempting to silence political opponents who disagree on the appropriate policies to address climate change.”
The ruling on the documents came the same day as the senate confirmation hearing of former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, at which he refused to say whether the company knew about the relationship between fossil fuels and climate change. Tillerson retired after 41 years with the company, just retiring in December.
In response to the questions, he said at the hearing:
“Since I’m no longer with Exxon Mobil, I can’t speak on their behalf, question would have to be put to Exxon Mobil.”
Senator Tim Kaine, Hilary Clinton’s pick for running mate in last year’s election, responded by asking “Do you lack knowledge to answer my questions or are you refusing to answer my question?”
Tillerson replied: “A little of both.”
The Massachusetts ruling was celebrated by environmental groups, with Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org, saying:
“Rex Tillerson may be trying to make his getaway, but it’s good to see that the courts may yet hold Exxon responsible for the damage it’s done to this planet and to our democracy,”