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California sues Big Oil for allegedly 'lying about climate change' and 'wreaking havoc on our planet'

California Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)

California filed a lawsuit against the world's largest oil and gas companies on Friday for allegedly "lying about climate change" and "wreaking havoc on our planet," according to a recent press release from Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom.

The governor accused Exxon Mobil, Shell, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, BP, and the American Petroleum Institute of "decades of deception," claiming that the companies have "intentionally suppressed" the "dangers of the fossil fuels they produce" to "protect their profits." Newsom's Saturday press release linked "fossil fuel consumption to rising global temperatures and damage to our air, land, and water."

Newsom stated, "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."

The state's lawsuit, filed by State Attorney General Rob Bonta, claimed that the big five oil and gas companies are pushing "disinformation" campaigns to hide the climate impacts of their products. According to the complaint, the defendants aimed to "use disinformation to plant doubt about the reality of climate change in an effort to maintain consumer demand for their fossil fuel products and their large profits."

In a statement regarding the lawsuit, Bonta said, "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."

Newsom's office alleged that the companies' "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," the governor's press release added.

According to California officials, the oil giants are directly responsible for "ongoing climate disasters" in the state, including "extreme heat," "drought and water shortages," "extreme wildfire," "public health injuries," "extreme storms and flooding," "damage to agriculture," "sea level rise, coastal flooding and coastal erosion," and "ecosystem, habitat, and biodiversity disruption," which have allegedly racked up "billions of dollars of costs" for residents.

The lawsuit seeks damages and the creation of a nuisance abatement fund that would cover the costs of alleged climate-related disasters caused by fossil fuels. It also seeks to prevent the oil giants from engaging in further pollution and making misleading statements about the impact of their products on the planet.

On Sunday, Chevron stated, "Climate change is a global problem that requires a coordinated international policy response, not piecemeal litigation for the benefit of lawyers and politicians."

API senior vice president and general counsel Ryan Meyers said, "The record of the past two decades demonstrates that the industry has achieved its goal of providing affordable, reliable American energy to U.S. consumers while substantially reducing emissions and our environmental footprint."

Meyers added, "This ongoing, coordinated campaign to wage meritless, politicized lawsuits against a foundational American industry and its workers is nothing more than a distraction from important national conversations and an enormous waste of California taxpayer resources. Climate policy is for Congress to debate and decide, not the court system."

Shell told KPIX-TV, "The Shell Group's position on climate change has been a matter of public record for decades. We agree that action is needed now on climate change and we fully support the need for society to transition to a lower-carbon future. As we supply vital energy the world needs today, we continue to reduce our emissions and help customers reduce theirs."

"Addressing climate change requires a collaborative, society-wide approach. We do not believe the courtroom is the right venue to address climate change but that smart policy from government and action from all sectors is the appropriate way to reach solutions and drive progress," Shell continued.

Exxon, BP, and ConocoPhillips did not respond to a request for comment, NPR reported.

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