Yesterday, by refusing to hear an appeal from Exxon Mobil (see docket), the U.S. Supreme Court declined to protect the oil giant from handing over decades of climate change-related documents to the Massachusetts Attorney General.
Back in 2015, InsideClimate News and the L.A. Times each ran multiple stories digging into Exxon’s knowledge of climate science and regulatory risk back to the 1970s. The Attorneys General of Massachusetts and New York soon thereafter launched investigations into Exxon’s potential deception of investors and the public regarding the risks of climate change.
Massachusetts demanded that Exxon hand over documents about its scientific knowledge and messaging on climate change as far back as 1976. Exxon resisted, arguing that the Massachusetts Attorney General lacked personal jurisdiction over Exxon. In January, 2017, the Massachusetts state trial court rejected Exxon’s arguments and granted the Massachusetts Attorney General’s motion to compel Exxon’s compliance. Last April, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the trial court.
That loss left the U.S. Supreme Court as Exxon’s last hope, and Exxon petitioned for certiorari in May. With yesterday’s denial of certiorari, SCOTUS leaves Exxon no apparent option but to comply.
In the meantime, New York has wrapped up its investigation and sued Exxon, alleging that it defrauded investors by hiding the risks of climate change. For complete, up-to-date summaries of these and other major climate change lawsuits, check out InsideClimate News’s timeline.