California goes after ‘Big Oil’ companies with lawsuit, citing years of deception

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California is suing five big oil companies for “lying about climate change,” the governor’s office announced Saturday.

“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. It has been decades of damage and deception,” Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said in a press release Saturday.

“Wildfires wiping out entire communities, toxic smoke clogging our air, deadly heat waves, record-breaking droughts parching our wells,” Newsom continued. “New California taxpayers shouldn’t have to foot the bill. California is taking action to hold big polluters accountable.”

The lawsuit, filed Friday, notes extreme weather faced by the state in the last year. It also accuses “[o]il and gas company executives” of knowing “for decades that reliance on fossil fuels would cause these catastrophic results,” yet suppressing “that information from the public and policymakers by actively pushing out disinformation on the topic.” The five companies named in the suit are ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and BP.

The suit, filed by California Attorney General Rob Bonta (D) and filed in state Superior Court in San Francisco County, is attempting to have the oil companies pay into an abatement fund for “the ongoing public nuisance their conduct has created in California,” among other disciplinary measures for their actions.

“With our lawsuit, California becomes the largest geographic area and the largest economy to take these giant oil companies to court,” Bonta said in the press release. “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.”

In a statement, Shell said climate change “has been a matter of public record for decades.”

“Addressing climate change requires a collaborative, society-wide approach,” Shell’s emailed statement read. “We do not believe the courtroom is the right venue to address climate change, but that smart policy from government and action from all sectors is the appropriate way to reach solutions and drive progress.”

In their own emailed statement, a spokesperson for Chevron called climate change “a global problem that requires a coordinated international policy response” rather than “piecemeal litigation for the benefit of lawyers and politicians.”

“California has long been a leading promoter of oil and gas development,” the Chevron spokesperson said. “Its local courts have no constructive or constitutionally permissible role in crafting global energy policy.”

A spokesperson from BP told The Hill they had no comment.

The Hill has reached out to ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips.

— Updated at 2:18 pm EDT Sep. 17.

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