California: California is suing oil companies BP, ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell and ConocoPhillips and their trade group, the American Petroleum Institute for deceiving the public over the risks associated with fossil fuels and causing billions of dollars in damage to communities and the environment, according to a complaint filed on Friday, CNN reported.
The lawsuit, which was filed by the state’s Attorney General Rob Bonta in San Francisco County Superior Court, claims the defendants have created a public nuisance, damaged natural resources and state property and have violated California law by misleading state residents with false advertising and misleading environmental marketing.
Similar complaints have been filed against oil companies by several states and cities including Rhode Island, Baltimore and Honolulu. But California is now the largest economy to file a lawsuit against the fossil fuel industry, according to a news release from Attorney General Bonta’s office.
The 135-page complaint says that all five major oil companies have known, since at least the 1960s, that burning fossil fuels would warm the planet and change the climate, but have instead downplayed the risk of burning fossil fuels, which has resulted in damaging wildfires, unclean air, deadly heat waves and record-breaking droughts, and cost the state billions of dollars.
The lawsuit claims the American Petroleum Institute was initially warned about the severe climate change they were causing in 1968 after receiving a report from the Stanford Research Institute, which it hired to investigate the state of research on environmental pollutants such as carbon dioxide.
The report cited in the complaint read: “Significant temperature changes are almost certain to occur by the year 2000, and … there seems to be no doubt that the potential damage to our environment could be severe.”
The complaint also points to a 1978 internal Exxon memo as proof the oil company was aware of the looming consequences.
“Present thinking holds that man has a time window of five to 10 years before the need for hard decisions regarding changes in energy strategies might become critical,” the memo read, according to the complaint.
The state in order to deal with the ongoing and future climate consequences of pollution linked to fossil fuel use, is seeking to create an abatement fund to be funded at least in part by the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Funds would be used to pay for climate change adaptation efforts and future damage caused by climate change, according to the complaint.
“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,” said Gov. Gavin Newsom in the Attorney General Office’s news release announcing the civil suit.
“California taxpayers shouldn’t have to foot the bill for billions of dollars in damages — wildfires wiping out entire communities, toxic smoke clogging our air, deadly heat waves, record-breaking droughts parching our wells. With this lawsuit, California is taking action to hold big polluters accountable and deliver the justice our people deserve.”
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