California sues oil giants, alleging decades of deception | ET REALITY


The state of California on Friday sued several of the world’s largest oil companies, alleging that their actions have caused tens of billions of dollars in damages and that they misled the public by downplaying the risks posed by fossil fuels.

The civil case, filed in San Francisco Superior Court, is the latest and largest lawsuit against oil, gas and coal companies for their role in causing climate change. Seeks to create a mitigation fund to pay for future damage caused by climate-related disasters in the state.

The lawsuit targets five companies: Exxon Mobil, Shell, BP, ConocoPhillips and Chevron, based in San Ramon, California. The American Petroleum Institute, a Washington-based industry trade group, is also listed as a defendant.

Seven other states and dozens of municipalities have filed similar lawsuits in recent years. But the California lawsuit immediately becomes one of the most significant legal challenges facing the fossil fuel industry.

Beyond being the most populous state in the country, California is a major oil and gas producer, and its attorney general’s office has a history of bringing landmark cases that are emulated by smaller states. California is also on the front lines of extreme weather driven by climate change, with wildfires, flooding, sea level rise, scorching heat and even tropical storms hitting the state.

Exxon, Chevron, Shell, BP, ConocoPhillips and the American Petroleum Institute did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the people of California by state Attorney General Rob Bonta, was filed Friday night. He claims that starting in the 1950s, companies and their allies intentionally downplayed the risks fossil fuels posed to the public, even though they understood that their products would likely cause significant global warming. He alleges that Exxon, Chevron and the other companies have continued to mislead the public about their commitment to reducing emissions in recent years, boasting about minor investments in alternative fuels while reaping record profits from the production of planet-warming fossil fuels.

“These people had this information and they lied to us, and we could have avoided some of the biggest consequences,” said California Governor Gavin Newsom. “It is shameful. “It sickens you to the core.”

The lawsuit claims the oil companies created a public nuisance, destroyed natural resources and violated false advertising and product liability laws.

“Oil and gas company executives have known for decades that dependence on fossil fuels would cause these catastrophic results, but they suppressed that information from the public and policymakers by actively spreading misinformation on the issue,” reads the complaint. “Their deception caused a delay in the social response to global warming. And their misconduct has resulted in enormous costs to people, property and natural resources, which continue to increase every day.”

In a detailed 135-page complaint, the state argues that the companies and their trade group have known since the 1950s that emissions from their products would dangerously warm the planet. But instead of alerting the public, seeking to reduce their emissions or investing in cleaner technologies, they downplayed the dangers and promoted fossil fuels as safe.

The complaint claims that corporate greenwashing has continued to this day, with oil companies promoting certain types of gasoline as environmentally friendly, and that the companies have recently backtracked on their commitments to reduce emissions.

The lawsuit also details the increasing damage that climate change is causing to California in the form of record heat, drought and water shortages, wildfires, extreme storms, flooding, crop damage, coastal erosion and loss of biodiversity.

“These last 10 years have shaken me to my core,” Newsom said. “These are things that we imagined we could be experiencing in 2040 and 2050, but they have been brought to the present moment, and now is the time for accountability.”

Oil, gas and coal companies face a wave of climate lawsuits. Cities and states across the country have filed lawsuits and are seeking billions of dollars in damages.

Fossil fuel companies tried to have many of the cases moved from state to federal courts, where they believed they would have a better chance of winning. But earlier this year, the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal on the matter, meaning the cases will remain in state courts, where experts believe municipalities have a better chance of obtaining damages.

Two recent lawsuits against major oil companies, one in Puerto Rico and another in Hoboken, New Jersey, have brought charges under the state and federal versions of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. But the California lawsuit makes no claims under the state’s RICO law.

The lawsuit also does not seek damages for a specific weather event, a strategy used in the Puerto Rico case and a recent lawsuit from Multnomah County in Oregon.

Instead, Bonta is seeking the creation of a fund that would be used to pay for recovery from extreme weather events and mitigation and adaptation efforts across the state. The lawsuit claims California has already spent tens of billions of dollars paying for climate disasters and expects costs to rise significantly in the coming years.

“This has been an ongoing, multi-decade campaign to seek endless profits at the expense of our planet, our people, and greedy corporations and individuals who must be held accountable,” Bonta said in an interview. “That’s where we come in.”

There is precedent for such a fund. Several California cities sued lead paint manufacturers on similar grounds. After decades of litigation, the companies agreed settle for $305 millionwhich was used to create a reduction fund.

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