Storage tanks inside the Exxon Mobil Baton Rouge Refinery in Louisiana, US. Picture: REUTERS
Storage tanks inside the Exxon Mobil Baton Rouge Refinery in Louisiana, US. Picture: REUTERS

The US supreme court on Monday cleared the way for the attorney-general of Massachusetts to obtain records from Exxon Mobil, to probe whether the oil company concealed its knowledge of the role fossil fuels play in climate change for decades.

The justices declined to hear Exxon's appeal against a ruling by the top court in Massachusetts, holding that attorney-general Maura Healey, a Democrat, had jurisdiction to seek records to probe whether the company misled consumers and investors.

The action by the high court marked the latest setback for Exxon in its efforts to halt the Massachusetts investigation and a similar one by New York's attorney-general, who filed a lawsuit against the company in October.

New York's lawsuit accused Exxon of engaging in a systematic scheme to deceive investors about the impact that future climate change regulations could have on its business. Exxon has called the claims “meritless”.

The Massachusetts and New York investigations were launched following 2015 news reports that Exxon's own scientists had determined that fossil fuel combustion must be reduced to mitigate the impact of climate change.

Those news reports, by InsideClimate News and the Los Angeles Times, were based on documents from the 1970s and 1980s. Exxon said the documents were not inconsistent with its public positions.

Reuters