September 18, 2023

Governor Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Rob Bonta announced on September 16, 2023 that California is suing Big Oil for more than 50 years of deception, cover-up, and damage that have cost California taxpayers billions of dollars in health and environmental impacts.

In front of the world’s top political and business leaders gathered for Climate Week NYC, Gov. Newsom sent a clear message: it’s time for transparency, accountability, and climate action.

His announcement comes as part of his ongoing commitment to protect Californian families from the health, climate and economic threats posed by Big Oil’s lies.

Speaking from the stage at the 15th annual New York Climate Week, Gov. Newsom did not mince words when he called the climate crisis a fossil fuel crisis and pledged to illuminate fossil fuel companies’ deceit.

“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,” said California Governor Gavin Newsom.

The text of the lawsuit is here.

“With this historic lawsuit, California has given a roadmap to other states to step forward and seek justice for millions of people who have suffered from fossil fuel companies polluting our air, water and soil. Big Oil has been fueling the climate crisis for far too long,” said Dominic Frongillo, Elected Officials to Protect America’s Executive Director and Co-Founder. “Big Oil raked in over $200 billion last year while gas prices skyrocketed. Meanwhile, people suffered from escalating climate disasters and health issues caused by dirty fossil fuels. Elected Officials to Protect America is grateful for Governor Newsom’s important steps towards California leading our nation in keeping fossil fuels in the ground.”

Under Gov. Newsom’s leadership, the state of California has sued five of the biggest oil companies in the world, ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell, BP, ConocoPhillips, and the American Petroleum Institute, for spearheading a misinformation campaign that has enabled them to rake in millions at the expense of our environment and public health.

“Oil executives deceived the public for decades about how fossil fuels are hurting our health and destroying our planet, protecting their own profits while sticking taxpayers with the bill for the damages. They have made billions while people, especially in environmental justice communities, have been burdened with health issues caused by their operations. Too many have died. California is leading the nation and world with this lawsuit that’s long overdue, ” said Christian Brock, CEO Elected Officials to Protect America.

Gov. Newsom spoke candidly about unmasking the depths of their cover-up and committed to holding Big Oil responsible for the damage that has cost California taxpayers billions of dollars in health and environmental impacts.

“With this historic lawsuit, Gov. Newsom and Attorney General Bonta are providing the climate leadership the world so desperately needs. 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. This case opens a new avenue for California to lead the nation in ending deadly fossil fuels,” said Kassie Siegel, Director, Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute.

As the world’s fifth largest economy, and a national and global leader of progressive policies, the scope of the lawsuit has the potential to break the stranglehold that fossil fuel companies have on our future.

Gov. Newsom also committed to signing into law legislation that will require billion-dollar companies to disclose their greenhouse gas emissions and large companies to report their financial risks stemming from climate change. California’s leadership continues to raise the bar for governments around the world in the fight against climate change.

“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. Enough is enough,” said 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,” said Attorney Geneal Bonta.

The defendants:

  • Five of the world’s largest oil companies and their subsidiaries: Exxon, Shell, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and BP
  • A trade group that promoted disinformation: The American Petroleum Institute

Why the state of California is suing them:

DECADES OF DECEPTION

  • Oil and gas executives have known for decades about the dangers of the fossil fuels they produce.
  • Industry-funded reports directly linked fossil fuel consumption to rising global temperatures and damage to our air, land, and water.
  • Oil companies intentionally suppressed that information from the public and policymakers to protect their profits, and spent billions of dollars to spread disinformation on climate change and delay our transition away from fossil fuels.
  • Oil companies used this information for their own profits, developing new technology to explore the Arctic for oil production because they knew Arctic sea ice was melting.
  • The deception continues today: Oil companies promote fossil fuel products as “clean” or “green” or “low-emissions” that still produce carbon pollution, and they tout their renewable fuel products that actually make up a fraction of a percent of their earnings.

DAMAGING CALIFORNIA

  • Big Oil’s lies and cover ups have caused ongoing climate disasters that have imposed billions of dollars of costs on Californians. We should not have to foot the bill alone while oil companies profit.
  • The suit demands that oil companies pay their fair share for:
    • Recovery efforts from climate change-induced superstorms and wildfires;
    • Protecting people from the health impacts of extreme heat;
    • Managing dwindling water supplies in extreme drought;
    • Fortifying infrastructure and homes against sea level rise and coastal and inland flooding.

What California is asking the court to do:

  • Order the oil companies to pay for the costs of their impacts to the environment, human health, and Californians’ livelihoods, and to help protect the state against the harms that climate change will cause in years to come;
  • Prohibit oil companies from engaging in further pollution and destruction of California communities and natural resources;
  • Levy financial penalties on Big Oil for lying to the public, and order the industry to immediately stop its ongoing efforts to deceive or misinform about their catastrophic impacts;
  • Award punitive damages to the state to punish these companies for their misconduct.