Court: Exxon must go to trial over climate crimes
The ruling, along with another important court decision coming later this week, will force the company to face justice over crimes it lied about.
The Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that ExxonMobil, the largest oil company in the United States, must stand trial on charges of lying about the climate crisis and covering up the fossil fuel industry's role in worsening environmental devastation.
Exxon claimed the case was politically motivated by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and amounted to an attempt to prevent the company from exercising its right to free speech.
However, the state's supreme judicial court unanimously dismissed the claim, dealing another blow to the oil industry's efforts to stave off a nationwide wave of lawsuits over its role in global warming.
Exxon is accused in Healey's lawsuit of violating the state's consumer protection laws by concealing what it knew about the climate impact of burning fossil fuels for decades.
The state also claims that the company misled investors about the risks that global warming poses to its business.
Exxon alleged that the lawsuit violated legislation prohibiting so-called strategic lawsuits against public participation, or SLAPPs, which are used by wealthy individuals and corporations to silence critics. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that anti-SLAPP laws do not apply to government cases.
More GOOD news 💪...a US court has ruled Exxon must go to trial over alleged climate crimes.— Chris Bettles (@ChrisBettles1) May 25, 2022
Exxon will now face a trial over accusations that it lied about the climate crisis and covered up the fossil fuel industry’s role in worsening environmental devastation.
A federal court also refused to put a block on the state's legal action in March, ruling that Exxon was required to turn over documents to investigators.
On Monday, a federal appeals court ruled that a lawsuit filed by Rhode Island against 21 fossil fuel companies, including Exxon, BP, and Shell, could proceed in state court. Companies that use fossil fuels are attempting to shift cases to federal courts, which they see as a more welcoming venue.
State systems, for example, frequently allow for a much broader discovery process, which could force Exxon and other companies to hand over highly embarrassing documents revealing what they knew about the climate crisis, when they knew it, and how they responded.
At least ten other federal courts across the country have rejected the industry's efforts to remove similar cases from state courts.
So far this year, federal appeals courts in Colorado, Maryland, and California have issued similar decisions.
It is worth mentioning that the largest fossil fuel businesses in the world made a major profit: $93.3 billion, to be precise, following the global chaos following the war in Ukraine.
Exxon made $8.8 billion, which marked a 300% increase year-on-year in 2021.
While corporates have been cashing up massive numbers, the world has been dealing with unprecedented inflation.
Climate activists and environmentalists have called the profits "obscene," arguing that fossil fuel profits would not be so rewarding if governments handled the climate crisis as they should.
The increasing oil profits are alarming given that scientists have repeatedly warned that the world should move towards less dependency on fossil fuels in order to avoid various disasters, including heatwaves, drought, and other climate emergencies.