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California Takes Big Oil to Court

In a landmark legal move earlier this week, Governor Newsom and Attorney General Rob Bonta announced that California is suing five of the world's largest oil companies and their subsidiaries. The companies include Exxon, Shell, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and BP. The state argues that oil gas executives have known for over 50 years about the harms of fossil fuels and continue to deceive Californians and the larger population at the cost of our environment and communities. Plastic is a fossil-fuel-based product that the industry is relying on to maintain the status quo, including its profits. California is now the largest geographic area and economy to take oil and gas giants to court.


The lawsuit, filed Sept. 16, shows that industry-funded reports directly link fossil fuel consumption to rising global temperatures and damage to our environment, and oil companies intentionally did not divulge this information. Instead, they spent billions of dollars spreading disinformation promoting fossil fuel production as "clean," "green" or "low-emissions" to protect and grow their profits. 

The lawsuit also highlights that big oil's lies, deceptions and cover-ups have caused and continue to cause devastating climate disasters, adding up to billions of dollars of cost to Californians. This cost should not be put on Californians while oil companies are experiencing record profits.


The suit demands that oil companies pay their fair share for:

  • Recovery efforts from climate change-induced superstorms and wildfires;
  • Protecting people from the health impacts of extreme heat;
  • Managing dwindling water supplies in extreme drought;
  • Fortifying infrastructure and homes against sea level rise and coastal and inland flooding.

The Surfrider Foundation applauds Governor Newsom and Attorney General Bonta for bringing this lawsuit forward to hold big oil and gas companies accountable to pay for the harm they have caused to our communities and the environment, especially environmental justice communities. Read the full press release here.