Massachusetts AG Case Against Exxon Moves Forward

Massachusetts AG Case Against Exxon Moves Forward - Maura Healey

In 2019, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey sued ExxonMobil for deceptive advertising to the state’s residents. Healy claims the oil giant knew of the harm its fossil fuel products caused to climate but pushed them anyways. Exxon has, of course, fought the charges and argued for protection under state law -- an argument that was rejected this week by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

"Climate change indisputably is a topic that has attracted government attention," Superior Court Justice Karen Green wrote. "It is apparent from the context in which they were made that many Exxon statements referenced in the complaint are not protected."

Democracy Now!: Massachusetts AG Maura Healey on Why She Is Suing ExxonMobil for Climate Deception, May 1, 2017.

Now This: Sheldon Whitehouse on Greenwashing and Fossil Fuel Industry, May 14, 2021.

Al Jazeera: Should fossil fuel advertising be regulated?, October 20, 2021.

Why This Matters

Exxon faces lawsuits from seven state attorneys general across the US, so this case is just one in a wave of legal action looking to hold the fossil fuel company responsible for the damage it has caused -- and how it knowingly misled the public while doing so. The company also faces legal challenges for other parts of its operations. The state of California recently subpoenaed Exxon for "historic and ongoing efforts” to downplay just how detrimental and dangerous plastic waste is to human health and the environment, and for falsely claiming the fossil fuel-derived material is recyclable.

CBS: Climate change lawsuits | Taking fossil fuel firms to court, April 17, 2022.

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court: Exxon Mobil Corporation v. Attorney General, SJC-12376, June 29, 2021.

NBC: California AG Investigates ExxonMobil For Role In Plastic Pollution, May 2, 2022.

NBC: New Study Finds Pollution Caused Nearly Nine Million Deaths Worldwide In 2019, May 18, 2022.

The Story of Stuff Project: The Story of Plastic (Animated Short), April 21, 2022.

Other Accountability Lawsuits

It’s not just state-level legal officials using the courts to hold companies and leaders responsible for the climate crisis. Five youth-led cases are pending against state governments that claim their constitutional rights have been violated by elected officials and their approaches to climate change. In Held v. Montana, 16 plaintiffs argue that the state prioritized fossil fuel company profits over their livable future. It will be heard next year and will mark the first youth lawsuit of this kind to go to trial.

While these lawsuits are proceeding, fossil fuels are being extracted. In new findings by Oil Change International (OCI), a climate research organization, all new drilling projects must cease and governments may have to decommission a large portion of their existing projects to keep within 1.5 degrees of warming. Similarly, a recent Manchester University study found that rich countries will have to completely phase out oil and gas production by 2034 to stay within that 1.5-degree limit.

YOUTH v GOV (official trailer), April 12, 2022.

TED: End fossil fuels to protect human health, March 1, 2022.

The Climate Pod: How Fossil Fuel Interests Weaponized Economists (With Ben Franta), September 15, 2021.

Denial, Doubt, Delay

A new docuseries The Power of Big Oil on PBS digs into the industry and its strategy to promote denial and progress its agenda. Viewers are offered a close examination of all sides of the campaigns and intentional manipulation of oil giants. Watch Part I: Denial here, Part II: Doubt here, and Part III: Delay here.

NYU Environmental Studies: The Long Game | How Big Oil Delayed Climate Action For Four Decades (with Ben Franta), November 11, 2021.

CBS: Huge carbon emissions cuts needed, UN climate report finds, April 4, 2022.

IEA: A 10-Point Plan to Cut Oil Use, March 18, 2022.