'Victory': Supreme Court Rejects Exxon's Appeal, Time to Fork Over Climate Docs
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Massachusetts' Democratic Attorney General Maura Healey declared "victory" on Monday after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected ExxonMobil's attempt to derail her office's probe into whether the fossil fuel giant misled investors and the public about its knowledge of climate change.
The decision effectively affirmed Healy's authority to investigate Exxon and to order the company to hand over decades of internal records related to the company's understanding of global warming.
This victory "clears the way for our office to investigate Exxon's conduct toward consumers and investors," Healey tweeted after the ruling.
"The public deserves answers from this company about what it knew about the impacts of burning fossil fuels, and when," she added.
Today’s #SCOTUS victory clears the way for our office to investigate Exxon’s conduct toward consumers and investors… https://t.co/XMCd8EFLt9— Maura Healey (@Maura Healey)1546877645.0
Healey first issued a civil investigative demand on Exxon in April 2016 in order to seek "information regarding whether Exxon may have misled consumers and/or investors with respect to the impact of fossil fuels on climate change, and climate change-driven risks to Exxon's business."
The oil company repeatedly tried to block the AG's investigation in lower courts but never prevailed. Today's rejection from the nation's top court likely means that Exxon must comply with Healy's demands.
Environmentalists, including 350.org U.S. communications manager Thanu Yakupitiyage, celebrated the news.
"This latest decision brings great momentum in the fight to hold fossil fuel companies accountable for causing the climate crisis," Yakupitiyage said in an issued statement. "We thank Attorney General Healey for her vigilant leadership in standing up for people over polluters."
Underwood's office said in a press release that a years-long investigation uncovered an alleged fraudulent scheme to systematically and repeatedly deceive investors about the significant impact that future climate change regulations could have on the company's assets and value. The alleged fraud reached the highest levels of the company, including former chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson.
The probes from the Massachusetts and New York attorneys general were launched after groundbreaking investigations by InsideClimate News and The Los Angeles Times in 2015, which reported that Exxon scientists and executives understood for decades that its products drive global warming.
"Today's decision is yet another defeat for Exxon in their fight to hide the fact that they have known for 50 years that their products cause climate change," Richard Wiles, executive director of the Center for Climate Integrity, said in an issued statement. "Deception and delay are Exxon's core climate strategies. Today the court dealt the company yet another defeat in their fight to hide the fact that they have known for 50 years that their products cause climate change."
Exxon has dismissed these allegations as "meritless," Reuters reported.
#BREAKING: New York Sues #Exxon For Climate Deception @newyorkstateag @sierraclub @billmckibben @desmogblog… https://t.co/WTJZ2o6aGY— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1540410862.0
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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