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California sues top oil firms, accuses them of downplaying risk of fossil fuels

Just Earth News | @justearthnews | 17 Sep 2023

California sues top oil firms, accuses them of downplaying risk of fossil fuels

Pump-jack mining crude oil. Photo Courtesy: Unsplash

California is suing major oil companies, including ExxonMobil and Shell, over what the US state describes as a long-standing pattern of deceiving the public over the risks associated with fossil fuels and causing billions of dollars in damage to communities and the environment.

The lawsuit was filed by state’s Attorney General Rob Bonta in San Francisco County Superior Court.

The lawsuit has been filed against Exxon Mobil, Shell, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, BP, and the American Petroleum Institute (API).

As detailed in the complaint, California has spent tens of billions of dollars to adapt to climate change and address the damages climate change has caused so far, and the state will need to consume multiples of that in the years to come.

Attorney General Bonta, on behalf of the people of California, is seeking nuisance abatement through the creation of a fund to finance climate mitigation and adaptation efforts; injunctive relief to both protect California’s natural resources from pollution, impairment, and destruction as well as to prevent the companies from making any further false or misleading statements about the contribution of fossil fuel combustion to climate change; damages; and penalties.

“Oil and gas companies have privately known the truth for decades — that the burning of fossil fuels leads to climate change — but have fed us lies and mistruths to further their record-breaking profits at the expense of our environment. Enough is enough,” said Attorney General Rob Bonta. “With our lawsuit, California becomes the largest geographic area and the largest economy to take these giant oil companies to court. From extreme heat to drought and water shortages, the climate crisis they have caused is undeniable. It is time they pay to abate the harm they have caused. We will meet the moment and fight tirelessly on behalf of all Californians, in particular those who live in environmental justice communities.” 

Governor Gavin Newsom said, “For more than 50 years, Big Oil has been lying to us — covering up the fact that they’ve long known how dangerous the fossil fuels they produce are for our planet.” 

“California taxpayers shouldn’t have to foot the bill for billions of dollars in damages — wildfires wiping out entire communities, toxic smoke clogging our air, deadly heat waves, record-breaking droughts parching our wells. With this lawsuit, California is taking action to hold big polluters accountable and deliver the justice our people deserve,” Newsom added.

The complaint contains extensive evidence demonstrating that the defendants have long known about the catastrophic results caused by the use of fossil fuels.

"Attorney General Bonta has supported states and municipalities that have filed their own complaints to hold major fossil fuel-producing companies accountable for their campaign of deception that has worsened the climate crisis," a statement issued by Bontas's office said.