Statement: California sues 5 of the top oil companies

Media Contacts

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – The state of California filed a lawsuit in superior court Friday against five of the world’s largest oil companies and an industry trade group, according to a report from the New York Times and a press release from the Governor’s office. The Times reports the suit claims that, starting in the 1950s, the defendants intentionally deceived people about the dangerous impacts of fossil fuels which, in the ensuing years, have caused costly climate change-fueled disasters from wildfires to flooding  across the state.  

The 135-page suit includes claims that oil companies knew for decades of the impacts of their industry and intentionally distorted facts. The Times says California Attorney General Rob Bonta is seeking the creation of a fund that would pay for costs associated with the increasingly common extreme weather events across the state, as well as “mitigation and adaptation efforts.” Those could include building out the clean energy infrastructure that can stave off the worst impacts of global warming. 

According to the Times, the complaint claims that the oil companies created a public nuisance, destroyed natural resources, and violated false-advertising and product-liability laws. The lawsuit was filed in San Francisco’s superior court following a recent court decision that similar suits should proceed in state courts rather than federal courts. 

In response, Laura Deehan, Environment California’s State Director, released the following statement:

“Governor Newsom and AG Bonta are showing some guts by taking on the biggest oil companies.

“For decades, we have tried to alert the public to the threats of our growing dependence on fossil fuels.  Meanwhile, as alleged in this lawsuit, the oil companies have downplayed, or outright lied about, the risks of burning fossil fuels.”

“Any company that lies about or obscures the public safety or environmental risks of their products should be held accountable. We have held the tobacco companies and lead paint manufacturers accountable for public harm, and this lawsuit makes a compelling case that we should be doing the same for the fossil fuel companies that downplayed or outright lied about the risks of their products. It’s too late to reverse past actions, but we can expose the unfortunate truth that we need to end our dependence on fossil fuels as quickly as possible. And make polluters pay for the damage they have caused.”