Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey’s case against ExxonMobil has taken an interesting turn, with the Democratic prosecutor now arguing oil companies have an obligation to warn consumers about global warming.
Healey’s attorneys argued before the state Supreme Court that “Exxon has an obligation” to “implement information to the consumers so that they could understand when they purchase a tank of gas that this is gonna have an impact on global warming.”
“And maybe they should be thinking about buying a more fuel-efficient car, maybe they should be thinking about public transportation,” Healey’s attorneys argued before the court on Tuesday according to a transcription of oral arguments from Energy In Depth, an industry-backed group that supports Exxon in this case.
Court justices seemed skeptical of the claim, asking Healey’s team if “the franchisee has to put on its gas station, ‘You’re creating global warming by buying my gas?’”
“If they’re doing sales and marketing in Massachusetts, and they know things that they should be telling people – either consumers or investors – that would be relevant to the consumers or investors’ decisions, then they’ve gotta make that part of their advertising,” Healey’s team argued.
“They can’t simply go around and say, ‘We’re selling you this terrific product,’ and keep to themselves what they know about the possible impacts of those products on global warming,” they argued.
Healey has been locked in a legal battle with Exxon over a multi-state investigation into the oil company’s handling of global warming science.
Liberal reporters backed by left-wing Rockefeller family foundations published a series of articles alleging Exxon “knew” about the dangers of global warming, but tried to hide those risk from the public. Exxon has publicly pushed back against those accusations.
Based on this reporting, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman launched an investigation in 2015. Healey and other state attorneys generals joined the suit, demanding documents from conservative think tanks tied to Exxon.
Environmentalists have supported the effort, even strategizing with Schneiderman behind the scenes, and some Democratic politicians have voiced their support for investigating, and possibly even prosecuting, Exxon.
Healey has demanded Exxon comply with her subpoena for records, but Exxon has fought the demands in court. Exxon argues Healey is improperly asserting jurisdiction over Exxon-branded gas stations in the states that are operated by franchisees.
Exxon began selling off its more than 2,000 U.S. gas stations in 2008 because of low gas prices, and the company has no other operations in Massachusetts. Exxon is based in Texas.
The court, however, didn’t seem to buy Exxon’s argument. Exxon appealed their case to the Supreme Court after a lower court ordered them to comply with Healey’s subpoena.
“They believe they’re buying Exxon gas,” said Justice Elspeth Cypher in Tuesday’s hearing. “The citizens of this state believe that’s what they’re buying.”
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