Massachusetts' attorney general argues her climate fraud case against Exxon belongs in state courtMassachusetts' attorney general argues that Exxon mischaracterizes the state's climate fraud suit in attempting to get it heard in federal court. Photo credit: Darren McCollester/Getty Images

By Karen Savage

Massachusetts’ climate fraud case against Exxon belongs in state court because it alleges only violations of Massachusetts consumer protection law, according to Attorney General Maura Healey’s office. The AG made its latest arguments to keep the case in state court in a motion filed Thursday in U.S. District Court. 

The AG filed the lawsuit against Exxon in Massachusetts Superior Court in October, alleging the company has long known its products drive climate change and has misled consumers with deceptive advertising, failed to disclose climate-related risks to its investors and failed to disclose how catastrophic climate impacts from continued fossil fuel burning could threaten the global economy. 

Exxon moved the suit to federal court earlier this month. Fossil fuel defendants—which  are facing an increasing number of climate liability lawsuits across the country—believe they will be more successful in federal court.

Suits filed by state attorneys general however, typically involve claims based on state law.

“Contrary to Exxon Mobil Corporation’s self-serving and distorted description of the Commonwealth’s exclusively state-law-based complaint, this case does not concern carbon taxes, prohibitions on the sales of gasoline, or international climate agreements,” attorneys for the AG’s office wrote in the motion.

“The Commonwealth’s complaint does not allege that Exxon has violated any environmental laws or caused a public nuisance, and it seeks no damages for the climate change harms caused by greenhouse gas emissions attributable to Exxon’s operations and products,” the AG’s office  wrote, referring to Exxon’s reasoning for moving the case to federal court.

Exxon also says the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA) dictates that cases like this, which are in essence class action suits,  belong in federal court, a premise the AG flatly rejects.

“No fewer than four federal courts of appeal and numerous district courts (none cited by Exxon) have held that CAFA does not apply to consumer protection actions brought by state Attorneys General,” the AG wrote. 

Exxon completely failed to prove the suit belongs in federal court, according to the AG’s office, which said Exxon’s removal of the case to federal court “misrepresents the Commonwealth’s detailed allegations, fails to cite controlling precedents, and recycles the same tired conspiracy theories regarding the Commonwealth’s investigation that have been rejected by state and federal courts.”

The court is expected to rule on the motion early next year. 

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