California Sues Big Oil Over Climate Deception

California is suing some of the largest oil and gas companies in the world for years of climate science denialism while worsening extreme weather related to the climate crisis.

“Industry-funded reports directly linked fossil fuel consumption to rising global temperatures and damage to our air, land, and water,” a press release from California Governor Newsom’s office announcing the lawsuit explained. “Oil companies intentionally suppressed that information from the public and policymakers to protect their profits, and spent billions of dollars to spread disinformation on climate change and delay our transition away from fossil fuels.”

The lawsuit was filed on Saturday in the Superior Court in San Francisco and has named Exxon Mobil, Shell, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and BP as defendants. The American Petroleum Institute, a fossil fuel trade group, has also been listed as a defendant in the filing.

The lawsuit seeks to create a fund that will be financed by the companies to help pay for climate-related devastation including wildfires and heat waves. The more than 130-page complaint explained that because fossil fuel companies knew about the potential risks, they should be financially held accountable for the climate damage caused to California’s residents and to the state’s economy.

“Californians and their families, communities, and small businesses should not have to bear all the costs of climate change alone,” the lawsuit said. “The companies that have polluted our air, choked our skies with smoke, wreaked havoc on our water cycle, and contaminated our lands must be made to mitigate the harms they have brought upon the State.”

The lawsuit comes alongside other climate accountability accounts being pursued by California officials. This weekend Newsom said that he intends to sign two climate bills into state law, including a bill that would mandate corporations to report their emissions. He announced his intent to sign at an opening ceremony for Climate Week in NYC this past weekend, the Associated Press reported.

One of the bills, SB 253, is also known as the Climate Corporate Data Accountability Act. California’s state assembly voted in favor of it last week. Those rules will mandate both public and private companies that make over $1 billion in revenue to outline both their direct and indirect emissions through different scopes in the next few years. This will affect over 5,000 companies that do business in the state, including oil and gas giants Chevron and ExxonMobil, the LA Times reported.

Emissions that the companies will have to consider will come from operations, water use, employee commutes, and more.

Want more climate and environment stories? Check out Earther’s guides to decarbonizing your home, divesting from fossil fuels, packing a disaster go bag, and overcoming climate dread. And don’t miss our coverage of the latest IPCC climate report, the future of carbon dioxide removal, and the un-greenwashed facts on bioplastics and plastic recycling.

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