ExxonMobil Ordered to Hand over Climate Change Info to Maura Healey

A judge ruled that the oil company must comply with the attorney general's ask.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey arrives at a meeting of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015, in Boston. Healey said her office will submit recommendations around gambling consumer protection issues soon. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Photo via AP.

Score one for Maura Healey. The attorney general’s quest to make ExxonMobil produce its internal documents on climate change has cleared a legal hurdle, and now has the blessing of a local judge.

The publicly traded company had requested that the court halt the demand to hand over the information, but were not able to convince Superior Court Judge Heidi E. Brieger, who ruled in Healey’s favor Wednesday. Exxon will now have to provide Healey’s office with 40 years’ worth of research and other materials the attorney general has requested.

“This order affirms our longstanding authority to investigate fraud,” reads a tweet posted to Healey’s official Twitter account yesterday. “ must come clean about what it knew about climate change.”

The ruling clears the way for a probe into whether ExxonMobil knew about the threat posed by climate change, thanks to scientists working at the oil company’s behest, but publicly denied the phenomenon and actively campaigned against efforts to combat the issue. The allegations gained traction after an investigative report by InsideClimate News in 2015.

Healey and New York Attorney Eric Schneiderman have argued that, if that were true, the company spent years misleading customers and shareholders in their respective states.

“In today’s order directing Exxon to comply with our investigation, the court affirmed the longstanding authority of the Attorney General to investigate fraud,” says Healey spokeswoman Chloe Gotsis. “Exxon 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.”

Exxon says it is reviewing the result and hasn’t decided on its next steps.

Last year, after Healey launched the campaign, the company returned fire. In December it announced it was suing Healey in Massachusetts and Texas, arguing that she did not have the jurisdiction to compel it to comply with the wide-ranging request, and that she was wielding the power of her office to score political points.

Since 2007, Exxon has changed its tone on climate change, and pledged to no longer promote denial of the science underpinning it, although it has continued to give money to politicians and interest groups that do.

Rex Tillerson, Exxon’s CEO, has been picked by President-Elect Donald Trump to become Secretary of State.