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California Attorney General files civil suit against major oil producers seeking punitive damages

California Department of Justice

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – On Saturday, Governor Newsom and Attorney General Bonta announced that the state filed suit against five of the world's largest oil companies, their subsidiaries, and a trade group in an attempt to exact punitive damages from the groups for knowingly contributing to the climate crisis.

The lawsuit cites violations of Civil Codes covering public nuisance, Government Code sections that authorize the Attorney General to pursue litigation for equitable relief for pollution and destruction of natural resources, and violations of the Business and Professions Code sections concerning untrue or misleading advertising as well as negligent product liability.

According to the lawsuit, "Defendants’ tortious and deceptive conduct was a substantial factor in bringing about these and other climate-related injuries suffered by the State, including harms to its infrastructure, environment, socioeconomic condition, and public health, that it has endured, and foreseeably will endure, due to the climate crisis. Moreover, the brunt of these injuries and harms will fall on frontline communities, as climate change exacerbates existing public health and environmental

The lawsuit claims cite studies and industry communications starting in the 1950s including a 1965 address by American Petroleum Institute president, Frank Ikard, at the trade association's annual meeting where he stated, “[o]ne of the most important predictions of the report is that carbon dioxide is being added to the earth’s atmosphere by the burning of coal, oil, and natural gas at such a rate that by the year 2000 the heat balance will be so modified as possibly to cause marked changes in climate beyond local or even national efforts."

The suit lists the following defendants: Exxon Mobil Corporation, Shell plc (Shell USA, Inc. and Shell Oil Products LLC), Chevron Corporation, ConocoPhilips, BP p.l.c., American Petroleum Institute, and The Global Climate Coalition (GCC).

Governor Newsom said, “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. It has been decades of damage and deception. Wildfires wiping out entire communities, toxic smoke clogging our air, deadly heat waves, record-breaking droughts parching our wells. California taxpayers shouldn’t have to foot the bill. California is taking action to hold big polluters accountable.”

California now joins more than forty states and municipalities across the country pursuing liability-focused lawsuits against the industry group.

“Oil and gas companies have privately known the truth for decades — that the burning of fossil fuels leads to climate change — but have fed us lies and mistruths to further their record-breaking profits at the expense of our environment,” said California Attorney General Rob Bonta. “With our lawsuit, California becomes the largest geographic area and the largest economy to take these giant oil companies to court. From extreme heat to drought and water shortages, the climate crisis they have caused is undeniable. It is time they pay to abate the harm they have caused. We will meet the moment and fight tirelessly on behalf of all Californians, in particular those who live in environmental justice communities.”

Your News Channel has reached out to all of the defendants named in the lawsuit and have heard back from BP's US Media Relations Manager that that entity will not be commenting on the lawsuit.

Chevron asked that the following statement be attributed to a Chevron spokesperson about the new lawsuit, "Climate change is a global problem that requires a coordinated international policy response, not piecemeal litigation for the benefit of lawyers and politicians. California has long been a leading promoter of oil and gas development. Its local courts have no constructive or constitutionally permissible role in crafting global energy policy.”

Article Topic Follows: California
American Petroleum Institute
BP p.l.c.
California Office of Attorney General
Chevron Corporation
civil litigation
climate change
Exxon Mobil Corporation
san luis obispo county
Santa Barbara
Shell Oil Products LLC
ventura county

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Andrew Gillies

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