LOS ANGELES — The state of California has filed a lawsuit against some of the world’s largest oil and gas companies, alleging they misled people about the risks of fossil fuels that are now responsible for linked climate change storms and wildfires They would have caused billions of dollars in damage, officials reported on Saturday.
The civil lawsuit, filed in San Francisco state Supreme Court, also calls for the creation of a company-sponsored fund to finance recovery efforts after devastating storms and fires. California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, said in a statement that the companies named in the lawsuit — Exxon Mobil, Shell, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and BP — should be held accountable.
“For more than 50 years, big oil companies have been lying to us and hiding the fact that they have long known how dangerous the fossil fuels they produce are to our planet,” Newsom said. “California taxpayers wouldn’t have to pay for billions of dollars in damage: wildfires ravaging entire communities, toxic fumes clogging our air, deadly heat waves, unprecedented droughts drying up our wells.”
The American Petroleum Institute, a group that represents oil companies and was also included in the lawsuit, said climate policy should be debated in Congress, not the courts.
“This ongoing coordinated campaign to pursue politicized and baseless lawsuits against an important American industry and its workers is nothing more than a distraction from important national conversations and a colossal waste of California taxpayers’ resources,” he said in a statement from the institute’s senior vice president President, Ryan Meyers.
Shell reiterated that view in another statement, saying the court was not the right place to address the issue of global warming.
“Addressing climate change requires a shared vision across society,” the energy giant said. “We agree that action on climate change is needed now and we fully support society’s need to transition to a lower carbon future.”
California’s lawsuits join similar lawsuits filed by states and local governments in recent years.
“California’s lawsuit adds to the growing momentum to hold big oil companies accountable for their decades of deception and provide access to justice for people and communities suffering from extreme weather events caused by the use of oil.” Fossils and Slow onset disasters such as sea level rise,” Kathy Mulvey of the Union of Conscious Scientists said in an email.