LOS ANGELES (AP) — The state of California filed a lawsuit against some of the world’s largest oil and gas companies, claiming they deceived the public about the risks of fossil fuels now faulted for climate change-related storms and wildfires that caused billions of dollars in damage, officials said Saturday.
The civil lawsuit filed in state Superior Court in San Francisco also seeks creation of a fund — financed by the companies — to pay for recovery efforts following devastating storms and fires. Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement the companies named in the lawsuit — Exxon Mobil, Shell, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and BP — should be held accountable.
“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. “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.”
The American Petroleum Institute, an industry group also named in the lawsuit, said climate policy should be debated in Congress, not the courtroom.
“This ongoing, coordinated campaign to wage meritless, politicized 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 giant 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.