A Massachusetts judge ordered on Wednesday that ExxonMobil release documents related to its research and views on climate change. This development is a stepping-stone victory in the state’s investigation of the oil corporation. It also marks real progress brought about, in part, by the #ExxonKnew media campaign, which aims to expose the corporation for concealing its findings on human-driven climate change.
The judge, Heidi Brieger of the Massachusetts Superior Court, ruled in favor of State Attorney General Maura Healey (in photo), who had filed a civil investigative demand for the documents. That demand is part of an ongoing investigation regarding what Exxon knew about climate change, and whether the corporation intentionally misled consumers and the public from the 1970s onward. Now Exxon is legally compelled to release that information. Attorney General Healey says that “the order affirms our longstanding authority to investigate fraud.”
The Massachusetts case concerns that state’s consumer protection laws, as does a similar case recently brought by the New York State Attorney General against Exxon. Both cases capitalize on existing state laws in order to hold ExxonMobil accountable for its role in creating dangerous climate change. The Attorney General’s progress in Massachusetts on Wednesday represents just one of the many approaches state governments can take in standing up to Exxon and other big oil interests.
Exxon, for its part, continues to fight both the Massachusetts and New York cases, claiming that since the company is headquartered in Texas, attorneys general in other states lack the jurisdiction to prosecute. But so far the Massachusetts investigation is moving forward despite Exxon’s attempts at obstruction.
These recent developments in Massachusetts suggest that climate fights will continue to unfold on the state level, in the judicial branches of government and with the help of grassroots activism — good cause for optimism among divestment campaigns.