California Sues Giant Oil Companies, Citing Decades of Deception

Launching one of the most prominent climate lawsuits in the nation, the state claims Exxon, Shell, BP and others misled the public and seeks creation of a special fund to pay for recovery.

Date: September 15, 2023
Complete Article: New York Times


The state of California [is suing] several of the world’s biggest oil companies, claiming their actions have caused tens of billions of dollars in damage and that they deceived the public by downplaying the risks posed by fossil fuels.

Beyond being the most populous state in the country, California is a major producer of oil and gas, and its attorney general’s office has a track record of bringing landmark cases that are emulated by smaller states. California is also on the front lines of climate-change-fueled extreme weather, with wildfires, floods, sea-level rise, searing heat and even tropical storms battering the state.

“This last 10 years, it’s shook me to my core,” [California Governor Gavin] Newsom said. “These are things that we imagined we might be experiencing in 2040 and 2050, but that have been brought into the present moment, and the time for accountability is now.”

[The lawsuit] is seeking the creation of a fund that would be used to pay for recovery from extreme weather events and mitigation and adaptation efforts across the state. It claims that California has already spent tens of billions of dollars paying for climate disasters, and expects costs to rise significantly in the years ahead.

There is a precedent for such a fund. Several California cities sued the makers of lead paint on similar grounds. After decades of litigation, the companies agreed to settle for $305 million, which was used to create an abatement fund.

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