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Judge Declines ExxonMobil's Motion To Dismiss Case Set To Put Climate Change And Corporate Responsibility On Trial

This April 23, 2018 file photo shows the logo for ExxonMobil above a trading post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. (Richard Drew/AP)
This April 23, 2018 file photo shows the logo for ExxonMobil above a trading post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. (Richard Drew/AP)

A judge in Boston federal court will allow a first-of-its-kind climate change lawsuit against a major corporation to move forward.

Judge Mark Wolf declined a motion by ExxonMobil to dismiss an amended lawsuit filed by the Boston-based Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), which claims the oil giant has failed to safeguard its Everett oil storage facility against the impacts of climate change.

ExxonMobil faces nine counts in the federal lawsuit originally filed in May 2016. It alleges residents living near the company's oil terminal along the Mystic River have been at risk of being inundated by toxic chemicals from the facility as storms intensify and sea levels rise.

In the lawsuit, the environmental group charged ExxonMobil's low-lying 110-acre terminal "has not been properly engineered, managed, and fortified to protect it from the impending threat of these climate change-related impacts." CLF is seeking a jury trial and about $110 million in civil penalties based on federal guidelines.

"ExxonMobil's own scientists agree that those risks are imminent," said Brad Campbell, president of CLF. "Exxon has done nothing to change its operations at this facility."

ExxonMobil has operated the Everett facility since 1965. It is used as a petroleum products and bulk storage terminal. From 1921 to 1964, the location was an oil refinery.

The Houston, Texas-based company has disputed all 15 allegations in the lawsuit. In court documents filed by ExxonMobil, the company said it has "engineered its facilities robustly with extreme weather events in mind and can manage the risk."

ExxonMobil did not respond to requests for comment in time for publication.

In January, in a separate case related to climate change brought by against the company, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to block a lawsuit against ExxonMobil brought by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey.

That ruling clears the way for Massachusetts to obtain records probing whether the oil company had deceived the public and shareholders for decades about its knowledge of the role fossil fuels play in climate change.

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Bruce Gellerman Twitter Senior Reporter
Bruce Gellerman is an award-winning journalist and senior correspondent, frequently covering science, business, technology and the environment.

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