Exxon Mobil Corp. suffered a setback in a climate change case when a federal judge ruled that a consumer protection lawsuit filed by Massachusetts should go back to state court.
U.S. District Judge William G. Young in Boston on Tuesday ordered the litigation back to Suffolk County Superior Court, where Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey sued in October. The state accused the energy giant of hiding its early knowledge of climate change from the public and misleading investors about the future financial impact of global warming.
The judge rejected Exxon’s argument that the case should stay in U.S. district court because the claims touch on important federal issues, and said case law backs Healey’s argument that it belongs in state court.
“This is a significant case,” Young said at the end of a hearing conducted over the phone. “This is not a case where the issue is in any substantial doubt,” he said, adding that he’s bound by “the great weight of case law.”
In a Dec. 26 filing, Healey called Exxon’s characterization of the case “self-serving and distorted,” saying the case is really about consumer protection, not claims of environmental violations that could be pre-empted by federal law.
Exxon didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment on the ruling.
The lawsuit is one of many targeting Exxon and other energy companies over their public statements about climate change over the years, though it stands out by alleging violations of state consumer protection and investor protection laws. Most of the other cases focus on so-called public nuisance claims, some of which have been dismissed and are on appeal.
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