ExxonMobil Corp. has been ordered to hand over more than 40 years of internal research concerning the impact of fossil fuels on the environment for an investigation being conducted by Massachusetts Attorney General (AG) Maura Healey.
In Massachusetts Wednesday, Suffolk Superior Court Judge Heidi Brieger rejected an emergency motion by ExxonMobil to quash the demand.
Last April Healey demanded the documents, which date to the 1970s related to the study of carbon emissions and the effects of those emissions. Healey's probe was launched in parallel to a multi-state investigation being conducted by New York AG Eric Schneiderman, which began in 2015.
ExxonMobil sought to prevent the demand for documents by arguing that the investigation is politically motivated, citing a speech by Healey last March. She said, in part, at the time, "We can all see today the troubling disconnect between what Exxon knew, what industry folks knew, and what the company and industry chose to share."
Brieger said Healey's were not evidence of "any actionable bias." The judge said it "seems logical" that Healey would want to inform the public about the basis for the investigation. "There is no requirement that the attorney general have probable cause to believe that a violation has occurred...She need only have a belief that a person has engaged in or is engaging in conduct declared to be unlawful."
A Healey aide said ExxonMobil "must now end its obstructive tactics and come clean about whether it misled Massachusetts consumers and investors about what it knew about climate change, its causes and effects."
ExxonMobil said it was "reviewing the ruling to determine the next steps." The supermajor, headquartered in Irving, TX, also is awaiting a ruling in Texas by U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade of the Northern District in Fort Worth, which argues that the demand for documents by Healey and Schneiderman violates federal constitutional rights.
Kinkeade last October opened the door with a discovery order to require Healey's internal phone records and depositions be examined, warning she may have acted in bad faith.
ExxonMobil has said the two AGs, both Democrats, "are incapable of impartial investigations and are attempting to silence political opponents who disagree on the appropriate policies to address climate change."