After California announced the new litigation against ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and the American Petroleum Institute, climate experts say it's “becoming increasingly likely that the oil industry will be required to pay damages for knowingly contributing to the climate crisis and deceiving the public about the impact of their pollution.”
California joins more than forty states and municipalities pursuing climate liability lawsuits that seek to hold major polluters accountable for lying to the public about their role in causing climate change. The experts said California’s suit is significant not only because California is the largest economy now suing Big Oil, it is also the first oil producing state to pursue such charges.
“The attorney general’s lawsuit calls for the establishment of an abatement fund to help pay for future climate disasters and community resilience measures. Eight California municipalities — San Francisco, Oakland, Santa Cruz, Richmond, Imperial Beach, and the counties of San Mateo, San Marin, and Santa Cruz — filed some of the nation’s first-ever climate lawsuits against fossil fuel companies in 2017 and 2018. Several of those cases are now proceeding toward trial in state courts,” the experts stated.
A new Make Polluters Pay campaign is also launching at Climate Week, seeking to galvanize the public to join the movement to hold the fossil fuel industry accountable for climate damages and other societal harms.
Taking inspiration from the Truth Campaign against Big Tobacco, organizers from Fossil Free Media are promising a multi-million dollar effort that will launch with a billboard in Times Square (image available on request), a petition push for the public to show their support for climate lawsuits, and a six figure digital buy across the United States to educate the public about the lawsuits and the industry’s deception.
“With this historic lawsuit, Gov. Newsom and Attorney General Bonta are providing the climate leadership the world so desperately needs,” Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute, said in a statement. “As the world’s fifth-largest economy, and the nation’s most populous state, California is uniquely positioned to hold Big Oil accountable for its endless lies and malicious blocking of climate action.”
"California’s lawsuit provides major momentum in the race to protect a livable planet,” she stated.
Richard Wiles, president of the Center for Climate Integrity, said, “California’s decision to take Big Oil companies to court is a watershed moment in the rapidly expanding legal fight to hold major polluters accountable for decades of climate lies. Whether it’s fires, droughts, extreme heat, or sea-level rise, Californians have been living in a climate emergency caused by the fossil fuel industry, and now the state is taking decisive action to make those polluters pay.”
“As similar cases proceed toward trial, California's move is an unmistakable sign that the wave of climate lawsuits against Big Oil will keep growing and that these polluters’ days of escaping accountability for their lies are numbered. Just like tobacco and opioid companies, the oil and gas industry will have to face the evidence of its deception in court,” he noted.
“Climate change isn’t just a tragedy, it’s a crime,” concluded Jamie Henn, founder of Fossil Free Media. “Fossil fuel companies knew, they lied, and now it’s time to make them pay. Right now, billions of us around the world are experiencing the impacts of the climate crisis first hand. It’s time to come together and finally hold the fossil fuel industry accountable for the damage they’ve done.”
Governor continues to embrace several policies that extend reliance on fossil fuels
On the other hand, Chirag Bhakta, Food & Water Watch California Director, had a more mixed reaction to Newsom’s announcement, commending Newsom for launching the lawsuit, but noting that the Governor has at the same embraced several policies that will continue reliance on fossil fuels in California into the future.
“We should be holding polluters accountable for poisoning our communities and putting our future’s at risk and we would like to commend our leaders like Governor Newsom for taking this first step,” said Bhakta in a statement. “However this lawsuit will not immediately change or improve the lives of Californians and any payout from it could take years to materialize. Our climate is in serious risk right now: we don’t have time to wait. We must immediately rein in fossil fuels and rapidly transition to renewable energy.”
“Unfortunately, while Governor Newsom has taken some steps to reduce drilling permits, he’s also embraced several policies that will extend our reliance on fossil fuels and other dirty energy. These include promoting dirty factory farm gas through the state’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard; embracing hydrogen, which is water and energy intensive; and championing carbon capture, which has a track record of failure and will extend the life of fossil fuel plants. His appointees on the State Water Resource Control board recently voted to allow three dirty gas power plants that were slated to be shut down in 2020 to continue operating until 2026. Further, the Public Utilities Commission just approved an expansion of gas storage at Aliso Canyon, site of the largest gas blowout in US history, despite Newsom’s repeated pledges to shut it down,” he emphasized.
“While it’s good that California will be suing some of the biggest companies driving the climate crisis, we need to address the climate crisis now. That means stopping new fossil fuel permits, rejecting hydrogen and carbon capture, and rapidly moving off fossil fuels as we embrace a renewable energy future,” Bhakta argued.
As I get more responses to the lawsuit by the state of California I will post them here.