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More climate change litigation against Big Oil including Shell

Friday, April 7, 2023
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OAKLAND — California Attorney General Bonta, as part of a coalition of 18 attorneys general, filed an amicus brief in support of the District of Columbia’s (D.C.) efforts to hold major fossil fuel-producing companies accountable for their misleading actions, that have worsened the climate crisis. In District of Columbia v. Exxon Mobil, D.C. alleges ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, and Chevron engaged in unfair and deceptive trade practices in violation of D.C.’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act, and misled the public about their harmful contributions to the climate crisis.

“For decades, Big Oil has relied on deceptive tactics to mislead consumers about the harms of fossil fuel use,” said Attorney General Bonta. “Today’s filing sends a strong message to corporations looking to fill their pockets at the expense of the health and wellbeing of the American people. We ask the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals to protect American families and future generations by allowing the case to proceed in state court. At the California Department of Justice, we will use the full force of the law to ensure Big Oil plays by the rules and is held liable for deceiving the public and exacerbating our climate crisis.”

Although D.C. originally filed its case to hold Big Oil responsible for its deception in state court, the case was removed to the federal district court by the fossil fuel company defendants. D.C. filed a motion to remand the case to state court, which the federal district court granted, finding that D.C.’s consumer protection claims do not arise under federal common law or raise a substantial federal question, and rejecting additional grounds for federal jurisdiction. The case is currently pending in the D.C. Circuit after the oil companies appealed the district court’s decision that ruled the suit belongs in state court.

In today’s amicus brief, led by New York in support of D.C., the Attorneys General explain that:

  • States are responsible for protecting their citizens from consumer deception, and such enforcement actions are routinely heard in state courts when the deception involve issues of national importance;
  • D.C.’s claims are about deceptive marketing, not emissions, and therefore do not arise under federal common law nor raise any substantial federal issue; and
  • D.C.’s claims are unrelated to oil and gas production activities on the Outer Continental Shelf and activities that defendants may have undertaken under the direction of a federal officer.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta is committed to holding Big Oil accountable for its misleading actions harming California consumers and the environment. The Attorney General’s Office has previously filed and joined several multistate amicus briefs seeking to hold oil companies accountable including: a brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit supporting the State of Rhode Island in its lawsuit, State of Rhode Island v. Shell Oil Products Company LLC et al.; a brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in support of the mayor and city council of Baltimore in their lawsuit, Mayor and City Council of Baltimore v. BP, et al.; a brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit supporting the State of Minnesota in its lawsuit, State of Minnesota v. American Petroleum Institute; a brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in support of the City of Honolulu and the County of Maui in their lawsuit, City of Honolulu v. Sunoco; a brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in support of the City of Oakland and the City and County of San Francisco in their lawsuit, City of Oakland and City and County of San Francisco. v. BP, et al.; a brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in support of the Counties of Marin, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, and the Cities of Imperial Beach, Richmond, and Santa Cruz in their lawsuit, County of San Mateo et al. v. Chevron Corporation; and a brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in support of New York City in its lawsuit, City of New York. v. Chevron Corporation, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil Corporation, Royal Dutch Shell PLC, BP PLC.

Attorney General Bonta joins the attorneys general of New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Washington, and Wisconsin in filing an amicus brief.

A copy of the brief can be found here.


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