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Exxon Faces New Climate Suit After Court Tosses Bid to Delay (1)

Oct. 24, 2019, 8:17 PM; Updated: Oct. 24, 2019, 9:16 PM

Exxon Mobil Corp. was accused by Massachusetts of misleading investors and the public about the projected financial impact of climate change on its business, just two days after a trial started on similar claims in New York.

The 205-page complaint, filed Oct. 24 in Boston, is the second state lawsuit claiming that Exxon lied about how it accounts internally for the expected future cost of climate change regulations and taxes on greenhouse gas emissions.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey overcame what she said were numerous obstacles put up by Exxon to derail an investigation, including a lawsuit alleging the probe was politically motivated and an attempt to depose her.

Healey’s office also dodged a last-minute effort by Exxon to stall the lawsuit. The Suffolk County Superior Court on Oct. 24 rejected the company’s request that the court force Healey to give Exxon more time to confer with her office after the New York trial concludes in mid-November. Exxon lawyers argued the timing of the move was designed to distract the company from the New York proceedings.

“Exxon has known for decades about the catastrophic climate impacts of burning fossil fuels—its chief product,” Healey said in a statement after filing the suit. “Yet, to this day, Exxon continues to deceive Massachusetts consumers and investors about the dangerous climate harms caused by its oil and gasoline products and the significant risks of climate change—and efforts to address it—to Exxon’s business. We are suing to stop this illegal deception and penalize the company for its misconduct.”

In the New York trial, Exxon claims that proxy costs and greenhouse gas costs are used internally for two different purposes—one as a metric for future reductions in demand and the other as a stand-in for carbon expenses on specific projects. The state, Exxon says, is conflating the figures to show a discrepancy where there is none.

Healey’s office says it has “reason to believe” Exxon violated the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act in its marketing and sales of fossil fuel products and Exxon securities.

A spokesman for Exxon didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The case is Mass. v. Exxon Mobil Corp., Mass. Super. Ct., No. 19-3333, 10/24/19.

(Updates with additional reporting.)

To contact the reporters on this story: Ellen M. Gilmer (Bloomberg Environment) in Washington at egilmer@bloombergenvironment.com; Erik Larson (Bloomberg News) at elarson4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Gregory Henderson (Bloomberg Environment) at ghenderson@bloombergenvironment.com; Anna Yukhananov (Bloomberg Environment) at ayukhananov@bloombergenvironment.com; Rob Tricchinelli (Bloomberg Environment) at rtricchinelli@bloombergenvironment.com; David Glovin (Bloomberg News) at dglovin@bloomberg.net

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