Exxon Mobil is ordered to hand over climate change research

An Exxon Mobil refinery in Billings, Mont.
(Matt Brown / Associated Press)

A Massachusetts judge has ordered Exxon Mobil to submit 40 years of documents regarding the company’s studies of the impact of fossil fuels on climate change.

Superior Court Judge Heidi E. Brieger said state law supports arguments by Massachusetts’ attorney general that the government agency has the authority to pursue questions about whether Exxon Mobil misled the public about the role fossil fuels play in climate change.

Exxon Mobil had argued that Atty. Gen. Maura Healey was biased against the company because of public statements during a news conference with other attorneys general about their investigations.


In her 14-page order, Brieger disagreed with Exxon Mobil and backed Healey’s actions.

“It is the attorney general’s duty to investigate Exxon if she believes it has violated” the law, Brieger said in her order, issued Wednesday. “Nothing in the attorney general’s comments at the press conference indicates to the court that she is doing anything more than explaining reasons for her investigation.”

Several attorneys general launched investigations into the oil and gas giant’s position on climate change after the Los Angeles Times reported that internal company documents suggested that during the 1980s and 1990s the company used climate research as part of its planning and other business practices but simultaneously argued publicly that climate change science was not clear-cut.

California’s attorney general also launched an investigation.

Exxon Mobil has rejected allegations that it suppressed climate change research contained in media reports.

An Exxon Mobil spokesman said the company is reviewing the decision.

U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), who had called on federal authorities to investigate Exxon Mobil, said the judge’s decision offers another avenue for consumer protection.

“One of the reasons America is great is the separation of powers in federalism,” Lieu said. “Here you have the judiciary ordering Exxon to provide documents about what they knew and when they knew it.”



3 p.m.: This article was updated with Times staff reporting, replacing an earlier version by the Associated Press.

This article was originally published at 11:45 a.m.