California Sues Oil Companies Claiming They Downplayed the Risk of Fossil Fuels

California Sues Oil Companies Claiming They Downplayed the Risk of Fossil Fuels – California has initiated legal action against major global oil and gas corporations, alleging that they misled the public and minimized the dangers associated with fossil fuels. This civil lawsuit, submitted in the state’s Superior Court in San Francisco, additionally calls for the establishment of a fund, funded by these companies, to cover the costs of disaster recovery following severe storms and wildfires. 

Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, expressed in a statement his belief that the companies mentioned in the lawsuit, including Exxon Mobil, Shell, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and BP, should face responsibility for their actions. “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,” Newsom said. 

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“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 heatwaves, record-breaking droughts parching our wells.” The 135-page complaint asserts that since at least the 1960s, these corporations were aware that the combustion of fossil fuels would lead to global warming and alter the climate. 

However, they played down this impending threat in their public statements and marketing efforts. According to the lawsuit, the companies’ scientists had knowledge dating as far back as the 1950s about the potentially catastrophic climate consequences. They recognized that there was only a limited timeframe within which communities and governments could take action.

Instead of addressing these concerns, the lawsuit alleges that the companies initiated a disinformation campaign, which started as early as the 1970s, aimed at discrediting the emerging scientific consensus on climate change and refuting climate-related risks. The American Petroleum Institute, also mentioned in the lawsuit, argued that climate policy should be debated in Congress rather than the courtroom.

“This ongoing, coordinated campaign to wage meritless, politicised lawsuits against a foundational American industry and its workers is nothing more than a distraction from important national conversations and an enormous waste of California taxpayer resources,” institute senior vice-president Ryan Meyers said in a statement. That was echoed in a statement from Shell, which said the courtroom is not the proper venue to address global warming.

“Addressing climate change requires a collaborative, society-wide approach,” the energy company said. “We agree that action is needed now on climate change, and we fully support the need for society to transition to a lower-carbon future.” California’s legal action joins similar lawsuits filed by states and municipalities in recent years.

“California’s suit adds to the growing momentum to hold Big Oil accountable for its decades of deception, and secure access to justice for people and communities suffering from fossil-fueled extreme weather and slow onset disasters such as sea level rise,” Kathy Mulvey of the Union of Concerned Scientists said.

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Addressing the legal action, California state attorney general Rob Bonta said in a statement that the companies “have fed us lies and mistruths to further their record-breaking profits at the expense of our environment. Enough is enough.” The lawsuit contains accusations against the companies, including blaming them for causing or playing a role in climate change in California. It also alleges false advertising, harm to natural resources, and illicit business practices due to them misleading the public regarding climate change.

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Richard Wiles, president of the Center for Climate Integrity, said in a statement that “California’s decision to take Big Oil companies to court is a watershed moment in the rapidly expanding legal fight to hold major polluters accountable for decades of climate lies. Californians have been living in a climate emergency caused by the fossil fuel industry, and now the state is taking decisive action to make those polluters pay.”

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