Court rules Exxon must provide documents in climate probe

BOSTON — Exxon Mobil must hand over documents related to a state investigation into whether the company misled investors and consumers about what it knew about the link between fossil fuels and climate change, Massachusetts' highest court ruled Friday.

The Supreme Judicial Court rejected Exxon Mobil's attempt to stymie Attorney General Maura Healey's probe into whether it concealed information about the impact of climate change from the public.

"Now Exxon must come forward with the truth, what it knew about climate change, when, and what it told the world," the Democratic attorney general said in a statement. "The people of Massachusetts - and people everywhere - deserve answers."

An Exxon spokesman said the company is evaluating the court's ruling and considering its next steps.

The ruling is the second blow to the Irving, Texas-based oil and gas giant in the last month.

A federal judge in March dismissed the company's lawsuit that aimed at stopping Healey's investigation and a similar probe that's being conducted by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. The judge in that case described Exxon's lawsuit as "running roughshod over the adage that the best defence is a good offence."

The company has said that the two attorneys general "are incapable of impartial investigations and are attempting to silence political opponents who disagree on the appropriate policies to address climate change."

Massachusetts' high court ruling upholds a lower court decision ordering Exxon to comply with Healey's investigation.

The court rejected Exxon's argument that the attorney general should be disqualified from the investigation because of comments she made that Exxon says show bias against the company. The court said Healey's comments showed no "actionable bias."

"As an elected official, it is reasonable that she routinely informs her constituents of the nature of her investigations," the court said.

Exxon had also argued that Massachusetts lacks jurisdiction because the company does not have a corporate presence in the state.

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Follow Alanna Durkin Richer at http://twitter.com/aedurkinricher . Read more of her work at http://bit.ly/2hIhzDb .

Alanna Durkin Richer, The Associated Press

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