September 19, 2023

Victory! California files lawsuit against Big Polluters

A person holds up a sign "against fossil fuels" during Climate Week in New York City.

For decades, Big Polluters have poisoned the air, water, and land. They’ve put Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and Asian communities in harm’s way. And it’s time they be made to pay for it.

That’s why we’re thrilled that California—home to a Chevron refinery and a state enduring droughts, forest fires, and more—is flipping the script. Last week, California Attorney General Rob Bonta filed a lawsuit against the world’s biggest fossil fuel corporations for feeding us, “lies and mistruths to further their record-breaking profit at the expense of our environment.”

This is one important milestone toward holding corporations accountable, ensuring justice, and stopping future harm. And it proves that when we stand together and take collective action, we can succeed in making Big Polluters pay!

Corporate Accountability and our members played an important role in the nationwide, years-long mobilization that led to this moment, grounded in the success that we and our allies have had in making the tobacco industry pay.

Over the years, thousands of our members in California and beyond have demanded that the Attorney General and elected officials make Big Polluters pay. We also amplified this call at events like the 2017 People’s Climate Mobilization in the Bay Area, met with elected officials from Los Angeles to Oakland on the potential of legal action against the industry, and collaborated with local organizing including the Richmond Our Power Coalition, a group led by communities that have endured and exposed Chevron’s abuses for decades.

This concerted pressure helped create the public demand for the Attorney General to use his power and authority to act.

This lawsuit, filed against Exxon Mobil, Shell, BP, ConocoPhillips, Chevron, and the industry trade group The American Petroleum Institute, breaks new ground for the liability movement. California is a major producer of oil and gas, and its size gives it the power to set a precedent that other states can follow.

The lawsuit also aims to create a fund to help pay for the damage that the climate crisis will bring to the state. This means that if implemented, polluters that have knowingly driven the crisis—not the people least responsible for it—will pay for the harm and devastation that communities are already facing to rebuild and adapt.

We celebrate today, but we know that the work is far from over. We will continue to partner with local allies in California to ensure that the funds from this lawsuit are directed to the communities that have been harmed, and that those communities are part of the decision-making process for where the money goes and how.

And California, as big as it is, is one state in one country. We and our allies will build on this case to stop Big Polluters from poisoning and extracting from communities across the U.S. and the world. And we will make sure it serves as proof that people, acting together, can hold corporations accountable and make them pay for destroying our health and the planet.

This, and so many other recent climate victories, is evidence that the tide is shifting. With all of us working together, a just, beautiful future for all is possible.

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