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E&E News: ‘Watershed Moment’: California Enters Climate Litigation Fray

California, a top oil-producing state, is suing the oil majors and an influential ally — making it the latest and largest player among a growing number of local governments looking to hold fossil fuel companies financially accountable for the effects of climate change.

The lawsuit, filed Friday in the Superior Court of California in San Francisco, accuses five of the world’s largest oil companies and their subsidiaries, along with the industry trade association the American Petroleum Institute, of waging a campaign to mislead the public about the dangers of burning fossil fuels.

“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,” said California Attorney General Rob Bonta (D). “Enough is enough.”

The move immediately vaults California to the top of a group of mostly Democratic-led states, including New Jersey, Massachusetts and Minnesota, that have filed lawsuits against the oil giants, as have two dozen local counties and cities.

Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), who was to use a press conference Sunday kicking off the United Nations climate summit and New York City’s Climate Week to tout the state’s involvement, argued the industry has lied about its contribution to global climate change for more than 50 years.

“It has been decades of damage and deception,” Newsom said. “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.”

The industry argued the lawsuit will do “nothing to advance meaningful solutions to climate change.”

“The challenge of our time is developing technologies and public policies so that the world can produce and use energy in ways that are affordable for people and sustainable for the planet,” said Phil Goldberg, special counsel to the Manufacturers’ Accountability Project, an initiative of the National Association of Manufacturers. “It should not be figuring out how to creatively plead lawsuits that seek to monetize climate change and provide no solutions.”

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