(Bloomberg) -- California Governor Gavin Newsom accused oil giants of “lying,” saying a landmark lawsuit his state filed aims to hold them accountable for reaping excessive profits at the expense of the state’s residents and the environment.
“The climate crisis is, after all, a fossil fuel crisis,” Newsom said on Sunday at the opening ceremony of New York City’s Climate Week. “They continue to play us for fools. I’ve had enough and I’m sick and tired of this.”
California Attorney General Rob Bonta filed the civil case in Superior Court in San Francisco late last week — at the end of the world’s hottest summer on record and as California has grappled with wildfires, blistering heat, drought, severe storms and flooding.
The lawsuit claims that for the past six decades, Exxon Mobil Corp., Shell Plc, BP Plc, ConocoPhillips and Chevron Corp. have misled the public by downplaying fossil fuel dangers despite knowing that their products were producing the planet-warming gases contributing to climate change.
The state alleges that these companies have netted massive profits from extracting fossil fuels and purposefully delayed the transition to a carbon-free economy, resulting in tens of billions of dollars in damage to the environment and people’s health.
“This is serious,” Newsom said, calling the damage done “incalculable.”
The lawsuit is the latest effort California has taken in response to climate change. In the past year, the state also banned the sale of new gasoline-powered cars by 2035 and passed a suite of regulations aimed at tackling pollution from the transportation sector.
The Democratic governor also said he intends to sign two climate disclosure bills passed by the state Legislature last week that would force many of the world’s biggest publicly traded corporations to make their carbon emissions and climate-related financial risks public.
In a statement to Bloomberg on Sunday, Chevron condemned the lawsuit.
“Climate change is a global problem that requires a coordinated international policy response, not piecemeal litigation for the benefit of lawyers and politicians,” a Chevron spokesperson said. “Its local courts have no constructive or constitutionally permissible role in crafting global energy policy.”
Kathy Mulvey, accountability campaign director at the Union of Concerned Scientists, praised California’s decision to file the suit.
“It’s past time for these companies to stop their greenwashing and disinformation campaigns and pay their fair share of the costs the climate crisis is imposing on Californians,” she said in a statement.
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.