The five corporations sued include Exxon, Shell, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and BP – the world’s leading oil and gas exploitation and supply entities. The American Petroleum Institute (API), the nation’s largest petroleum trade association, was also sued.
50 years of lies of oil giants
Speaking about the lawsuit, California Governor Gavin Newsom said that major oil companies have defrauded Californians for more than 50 years.
“California taxpayers should not have to spend billions of dollars on the costs of community-destroying wildfires, thick smoke in the air, deadly heat waves or hurricanes.” “The record drought has left the wells dry,” Mr. Newsom said.
California is the most populous state in the United States. The state is also a major oil-exploiting region and the place most affected by climate change in the United States.
Although not the first legal battle between the US government and oil corporations, the California lawsuit is the most influential.
According to the lawsuit filed in San Francisco County Superior Court on September 15 by California Attorney General Rob Bonta, the five corporations have known about the impact of fossil fuel use on the environment since the 1960s.
The API has also been warned by the Stanford Research Institute about climate changes occurring since 1968. However, the above organizations have deliberately minimized the risks posed by fossil fuels. This helps these businesses make huge profits, but it also leads to extreme weather events in California, causing billions of dollars in losses to the state.
According to the New York Times, the plaintiffs also believe that the above corporations continue to practice deceptive practices today. These companies promote themselves as “green energy”, despite investing little in alternative energy sources. Instead, they are still focusing on making products from fossil fuels.
Regarding recovery plans, the California state government requested the establishment of a fund to help the state recover from extreme weather events and prepare for the future impacts of climate change. This fund will be maintained with the money of petroleum companies.
The California state government argued, “The above companies have polluted our air, covered our skies in smog, destroyed our water cycle and polluted our lands. The loss must be forced to subside.”
Is a lawsuit possible?
Deliberate efforts by oil giants to mitigate the consequences of climate change are also more evident than before. In the early 2010s, the state of California sued several coal companies and automobile companies but the Supreme Court dismissed it.
Mr Ken Alex, former senior assistant to the state attorney general at the time, shared: “At that time we didn’t have much information about the fact that the oil companies were still giving out misleading and distorted information. I didn’t think we could do that. We have as much information about the above behavior as the current administration has.”
Although he supports the California government’s legal move, Mr. Alex believes this is a difficult case because “the defendants have extremely abundant resources and their violations are not easy to prove.”
Meanwhile, Mr Richard Wills, president of the Center for Climate Transparency, blamed the state of California’s decision to sue in a legal battle to force large environmental polluters to release water for decades of climate lies.
In contrast, oil companies strongly criticized the lawsuit. API Senior Vice President, Mr. Ryan Meyers, said: “The campaign to launch a series of unwarranted and politicized lawsuits targeting America’s platform industry and its employees is just a means to divert attention from important national issues and a drain on Californians’ resources.” A huge waste.”
Mr Meyers confirmed that it is the responsibility of Parliament to set climate policy, not the judicial system.
Ms Anna Arata, a Shell spokeswoman, agreed with Mr Meyers. He shared: “We do not think the courts are the right place to discuss climate change. Smart government policies and action from all sectors is the right way to find solutions and promote progress.”
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