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California Goes After Oil Supermajors in Climate Lawsuit

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In a significant legal move, the state of California has filed a lawsuit against five energy supermajors, including Chevron (CVX - Free Report) , Shell (SHEL - Free Report) and ExxonMobil (XOM - Free Report) , alleging that they systematically deceived the public and understated the risks associated with fossil fuels. The lawsuit, filed in state Superior Court in San Francisco, not only seeks accountability but also proposes funding by these energy giants to cover the costs associated with the health and environmental consequences of climate change.

Big Oil Accused of Concealing Climate Change Dangers

California's Governor Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Rob Bonta assert that these companies, collectively known as “Big Oil,” have been aware for decades that the burning of fossil fuels contributes to climate change. However, they allege that these corporations spent billions to conceal these facts, downplaying or even challenging climate change-related hazards in their public statements and marketing materials. Consequently, California has incurred substantial expenses, amounting to billions, to address climate change-induced consequences like wildfires, hazardous smoke, lethal heatwaves, and severe droughts.

Demand for Accountability and Redress

Governor Newsom demands that these major polluters take responsibility for their role in climate change's far-reaching consequences. The state seeks compensation for expenses related to climate change-induced superstorms and wildfires, protecting citizens from the health impacts of extreme heat, management of dwindling water supplies during severe droughts, and strengthening infrastructure and residences against sea-level rise and flooding. Additionally, the lawsuit asks the courts to compel the defendants to halt further pollution and impose penalties for their alleged disinformation campaigns.

The Industry's Response

The oil and gas industry's response to the lawsuit asserts that climate policy should be a subject of congressional debate, not legal action. The American Petroleum Institute, also named in the lawsuit, characterizes it as a baseless and politically motivated exercise that wastes California taxpayer resources. Instead, it emphasizes the industry's success in providing affordable energy to American citizens while substantially reducing emissions.

Chevron, another defendant, acknowledges the global nature of climate change but insists that addressing it requires a coordinated international policy response, not piecewise litigation that benefits lawyers and politicians. Chevron points out that California has historically been a champion of oil and gas development, and local courts should not craft global energy policy.

Shell, Europe's largest oil company, shares a similar sentiment, emphasizing that the courtroom is not the right venue for climate change discussions. The Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) firm advocates smart government policy and collective action across all sectors to drive sustainable progress. In this context, Shell highlights its commitment to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.

You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

ExxonMobil, although yet to respond publicly to the lawsuit, has previously expressed its commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. However, it is the only major Western oil company without a 2030 target for reducing carbon emissions resulting from its products.


California's lawsuit against Big Oil for climate deception has garnered support from climate activists and leaders for its effort to hold these energy giants accountable for their role in climate change. Similar cases brought by states and municipalities in recent years have accused these firms of prioritizing profits over environmental responsibility, setting the stage for a legal battle that could reshape the energy industry's future.

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