Attorney General Bonta Announces Lawsuit Against Oil and Gas Companies for Misleading Public About Climate Change

September 16, 2023
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

California becomes the largest geographic area and the largest economy to sue giant oil companies 

OAKLAND — Joined by California Governor Newsom, California Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced the filing of a lawsuit against five of the largest oil and gas companies in the world — Exxon Mobil, Shell, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and BP — and the American Petroleum Institute (API) for allegedly engaging in a decades-long campaign of deception and creating statewide climate change-related harms in California. Filed in San Francisco County Superior Court, the complaint asserts that although the companies have known since at least the 1960s that the burning of fossil fuels would warm the planet and change our climate, they denied or downplayed climate change in public statements and marketing. As detailed in the complaint, California has spent tens of billions of dollars to adapt to climate change and address the damages climate change has caused so far, and the state will need to spend multiples of that in the years to come. Attorney General Bonta, on behalf of the people of California, is seeking nuisance abatement through the creation of a fund to finance climate mitigation and adaptation efforts; injunctive relief to both protect California’s natural resources from pollution, impairment, and destruction as well as to prevent the companies from making any further false or misleading statements about the contribution of fossil fuel combustion to climate change; damages; and penalties. 

“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. Enough is enough,” said Attorney General Rob Bonta. “With our lawsuit, California becomes the largest geographic area and the largest economy to take these giant oil companies to court. From extreme heat to drought and water shortages, the climate crisis they have caused is undeniable. It is time they pay to abate the harm they have caused. We will meet the moment and fight tirelessly on behalf of all Californians, in particular those who live in environmental justice communities.”  

“For more than 50 years, Big Oil has been lying to us — covering up the fact that they’ve long known how dangerous the fossil fuels they produce are for our planet,” said Governor Gavin Newsom. “California taxpayers shouldn’t have to foot the bill for billions of dollars in damages — wildfires wiping out entire communities, toxic smoke clogging our air, deadly heat waves, record-breaking droughts parching our wells. With this lawsuit, California is taking action to hold big polluters accountable and deliver the justice our people deserve.”

The complaint contains extensive evidence demonstrating that the defendants have long known about the catastrophic results caused by the use of fossil fuels. For instance, in 1968, API and its members received a report from the Stanford Research Institute, which it had hired to assess the state of research on environmental pollutants, including carbon dioxide. The report stated: “Significant temperature changes are almost certain to occur by the year 2000, and . . . there seems to be no doubt that the potential damage to our environment could be severe.” In 1978, an internal Exxon memo stated that “[p]resent thinking holds that man has a time window of five to ten years before the need for hard decisions regarding changes in energy strategies might become critical.” More recently, the defendants have deceptively portrayed themselves and their products as part of the climate solution. For example, Shell claims online that it aims to become a net-zero emissions energy business by 2050, and that it is “tackling climate change.” However, Shell’s CEO told the BBC on July 6, 2023 that cutting oil and gas production would be “dangerous and irresponsible.”

The complaint includes the following causes of action:

  • Public nuisance: Under California law, a “nuisance” is “anything which is injurious to health,” and a “public nuisance” is “one which affects at the same time an entire community or neighborhood, or any considerable number of persons.” The complaint alleges that all the defendants, by their deceptions, acts, and omissions, have created, contributed to, and assisted in creating harmful climate-related conditions throughout California.
  • Damage to natural resources: California law authorizes the Attorney General to take legal action to protect the state’s natural resources “from pollution, impairment, or destruction.” The complaint alleges that the misconduct by all the defendants has served to exacerbate the climate crisis in California, and has led to the pollution, impairment, and destruction of California’s natural resources.
  • False advertising: California law prohibits untrue and misleading advertising in connection with the disposition of property or services. The complaint alleges that all defendants, with the intent to induce members of the public to purchase and utilize fossil fuel products, made misleading statements concerning fossil fuels.
  • Misleading environmental marketing: Under California law, “[i]t is unlawful for a person to make an untruthful, deceptive, or misleading environmental marketing claim, whether explicit or implied.” The complaint alleges that all defendants have made environmental marketing claims that are untruthful, deceptive, and/or misleading, whether explicitly or implicitly.
  • Unlawful, unfair, and fraudulent business practices: California law prohibits unlawful, unfair, or fraudulent business acts or practices. The complaint alleges that all defendants committed unlawful acts by, among other things, deceiving the public about climate change and affirmatively promoting the use of fossil fuels while knowing that fossil fuels would lead to devastating consequences to the climate, including in California.
  • Products liability (strict and negligent): The complaint alleges that, as a result of the defendants’ failure to warn about the climate-related harms related to the use of their products, California has sustained a plethora of injuries and damages, including to state property, state infrastructure, and its natural resources.

In addition to filing the lawsuit announced today, Attorney General Bonta has supported states and municipalities that have filed their own complaints to hold major fossil fuel-producing companies accountable for their campaign of deception that has worsened the climate crisis. In August and September 2021, Attorney General Bonta filed amicus briefs supporting such efforts by the City of Honolulu and the County of Maui; the City of Baltimore; the state of Rhode Island; and the State of Minnesota. On April 7, 2023, he filed an amicus brief in the District of Columbia Court of Appeals in support of the District of Columbia's efforts. On May 12, 2023, he led a multistate coalition in filing an amicus brief in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals supporting the efforts by the City of Oakland as well as the City and County of San Francisco. 

Since taking office in 2021, Attorney General Bonta has been a national leader in efforts to protect the environment. On April 28, 2021, he announced an expansion of the California Department of Justice’s Bureau of Environmental Justice – the first of its kind in a state attorney general’s office. On April 28, 2022, he announced an investigation into the fossil fuel and petrochemical industries for their role in causing and exacerbating the global plastics pollution crisis. On November 10, 2022, he announced a lawsuit against major manufacturers of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — commonly referred to as PFAS or toxic "forever chemicals” — for endangering public health, causing irreparable harm to the state's natural resources, and engaging in a widespread campaign to deceive the public. 

A copy of the lawsuit can be found here

Attorney General Bonta, Governor Newsom, and CARB Chair Randolph Issue Statements Following Oral Arguments in Three Critical Environmental Cases

September 15, 2023
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

OAKLAND — California Attorney General Rob Bonta, California Governor Gavin Newsom, and California Air Resources Board (CARB) Chair Liane Randolph today issued the following statements in response to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia hearing oral arguments in Ohio v. EPA, a case challenging California’s ability to enforce its Advanced Clean Cars Standards and other standards for emissions from new motor vehicles. The court also heard argument on two cases yesterday challenging federal vehicle emissions and fuel economy standards. 

"The attacks on California’s long-standing efforts to address vehicle pollution of all kinds are misguided and misplaced," said Attorney General Rob Bonta. “Vehicle pollution continues to be a pressing problem in California. I’m grateful that my team was in court this week vigorously defending California’s leadership on clean air.”

“Governor Ronald Reagan created the nation’s first clean air regulator here in California, and President Richard Nixon signed the Clean Air Act to preserve our right to keep driving efforts to cut pollution,” said Governor Gavin Newsom. “But the Republicans of today reject the idea that pollution is bad and clean air is good, trying to use the courts to legislate their backwards ideology. We’re going to fight like hell to preserve that once-bipartisan tradition and leave our communities better off for our kids and their grandkids.” 

“Congress has long preserved California’s ability to regulate vehicle emissions within the state and provide solutions to communities that for decades have endured some of the worst pollution in the nation,” said CARB Chair Liane Randolph. “Our regulations have propelled innovation in vehicle-emission control technologies that help clean the air Californians breathe. We look forward to the court affirming more than 50 years of that Congressional choice.”

Background on Oral Arguments This Week:


In Ohio v. EPA, Ohio, other states, and the fuel industry are challenging California's right to request, under the Clean Air Act, a waiver of preemption from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to enforce California-specific emission standards for new motor vehicles that are different from federal standards. In response to significant air quality challenges, California began regulating vehicle emissions more than 60 years ago, prior to the federal government. Congress has long preserved and repeatedly reaffirmed the state’s authority to regulate these emissions pursuant to a waiver. Moreover, since the 1960s, EPA has granted California over 75 preemption waivers, leading to improvements in air quality and widespread adoption of innovations ranging from the catalytic converter to electric and other zero-emission vehicles. Many other states have adopted California’s standards as well.  

In 2019, for the first time in the history of the program, the Trump Administration withdrew a previously granted waiver that had allowed California to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and require the sale of a certain percentage of zero-emission-vehicles. The Biden Administration reinstated the waiver in 2022. California led a multistate coalition intervening in support of EPA against challenges to that decision and the waiver provision more generally. Deputy Attorney General Elaine Meckenstock presented oral argument today for state intervenors, including the State of California. 


Yesterday, the court heard oral argument in Texas v. EPA, a challenge brought by certain states and fuel-industry groups to federal limits for greenhouse gas emissions standards for cars and light-duty trucks, set by EPA. The court also heard oral argument in NRDC v. NHTSA, a separate challenge — brought by similar interests — to fuel-economy standards for gasoline-powered automobiles, set by the U.S. Department of Transportation under a different statute.

The automobile industry is on pace to easily meet or surpass the requirements of both sets of standards, as well as California’s standards, in part through continuing increases in the number of electric vehicles on the market.

In both cases, California led multistate coalitions intervening in support of the federal government to ensure that the agencies are able to require meaningful improvements in emissions and fuel economy in the future. In NRDC v. NHTSA, Deputy Attorney General Theodore McCombs presented oral argument for state intervenors, including the State of California.

Attorney General Bonta Leads Coalition in Calling for 3M to Pay More and Sooner for Contaminating Americans’ Drinking Water Supply with Toxic PFAS

August 29, 2023
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

OAKLAND  Leading a coalition of five attorneys general, California Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced filing an amicus letter expressing strong concerns regarding 3M’s revised proposed class action settlement with public water suppliers. While 3M made several important concessions at the request of states led by Attorney General Bonta, 3M declined to pay more than the $10 billion to $12 billion set forth in the original proposed settlement, which falls far short of the amount needed to remediate the PFAS contamination caused by 3M to Americans’ drinking water supply. 3M also declined to pay the settlement amount more quickly, insisting that it be paid out over a decade — even while 3M’s own attorneys share concerns about bankruptcy in light of its many PFAS and other liabilities. Although the revised proposed settlement would not apply to Attorney General Bonta’s lawsuit against 3M and other PFAS manufacturers filed on November 10, 2022, it could apply to certain California water systems if they do not choose to opt out of the settlement.

“Like DuPont, 3M has agreed to modify its original proposed settlement in critical ways that will benefit the American people. The states fought hard for those changes. For example, the revised proposed settlement no longer tries to prevent states from pursuing their own PFAS lawsuits against 3M — California will continue doing just that,” said Attorney General Bonta. “However, 3M declined to pay an amount that accurately reflects the extraordinary damage it has caused to public drinking water systems, and it declined to provide water suppliers the money to remediate that damage more quickly. Our coalition has filed an amicus letter to make sure the court knows about our outstanding concerns.” 

In their amicus letter to the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, the California-led coalition writes that: 

  • The revised settlement still includes a very protracted payment schedule that makes water suppliers bear the risk of 3M’s insolvency for over a decade. Specifically, 3M will pay thirteen annual installments between 2024 and 2036.
  • $10 billion to $12 billion represents a tiny fraction of the damages 3M caused to water suppliers over the span of almost eight decades. 3M has been producing PFAS since the 1940s. 
  • A recent study by the American Water Works Association, a major membership organization that includes public water systems, predicts nationwide costs for PFAS regulatory compliance that dwarf the settlement amount. With water utilities being unable to cover the full costs of drinking water monitoring and treatment, they will need to pass costs on to ratepayers — American residents and businesses.
  • The costs for public water systems in California alone to investigate, test, purchase additional real property to install treatment infrastructure, install that infrastructure, and operate and maintain that equipment for decades would also easily dwarf the settlement amount.

On July 26, 2023, Attorney General Bonta led a bipartisan coalition of 23 attorneys general in opposing 3M’s original proposed settlement given several fatal problems. Along with today’s amicus letter, the attorneys general are withdrawing that opposition because 3M has agreed to the following revisions:

  • Modify the revised proposed settlement in several places to make clear the claims filed by Attorney General Bonta in his November 2022 lawsuit and other attorneys general will not be impaired.
  • Modify the terms of any proposed anti-suit injunction to ensure that the states remain free to file PFAS-related claims against 3M.
  • Eliminate an indemnification clause in the agreement that would have unfairly shifted future liability from 3M to water suppliers bound by the settlement because they decided not to proactively opt out.
  • Provide public water providers with a method for estimating the payout amounts they would receive. Under the original proposed settlement, they would have had to make their opt-out decisions without that information.
  • Give public water providers 90 days to opt out, instead of the 60 days included in the original proposed settlement.

PFAS have been widely used in consumer products including food packaging, cookware, clothing, carpets, shoes, fabrics, polishes, waxes, paints, and cleaning products, as well as in firefighting foams designed to quickly smother liquid fuel fires. PFAS are stable in the environment, resistant to degradation, persistent in soil, and known to leach into groundwater. In 2021, the California Legislature passed and Governor Newsom signed Assembly Bill 1200, which restricts the manufacture, distribution, and sale of food packaging that contains PFAS and requires manufacturers of cookware to disclose the presence of certain chemicals on the internet or product label. 

Joining Attorney General Bonta in filing the amicus letter are the attorneys general of Arizona, the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

A copy of the amicus letter is available here and a copy of the consent motion with the revisions to the proposed settlement is available here.

Attorney General Bonta Co-Leads Coalition in Supporting Federal Efforts to Restore Endangered Species Act Protections and Urging Biden Administration to Go Further in Unwinding Trump Rules

August 23, 2023
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

OAKLAND – Co-leading a coalition of 15 attorneys general, California Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced filing a comment letter regarding the Biden Administration’s proposed rules that would strengthen regulations implementing the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). While supporting the proposed rules, which largely reverse deregulatory actions adopted in 2019 by the Trump Administration, the multistate coalition also urges the Biden Administration to fully rescind the unlawful Trump rules. In California, there are currently 317 species listed as endangered or threatened under the ESA — more than any other mainland state — as well as millions of acres of designated critical habitat.

“California’s biodiversity and wildlife are unsurpassed, but increasingly at risk due to climate-fueled weather events that threaten to drive certain species closer to extinction,” said Attorney General Bonta. “I therefore support the Biden Administration’s proposal to rescind most of the unlawful Trump rules and urge the federal government to go further and unwind them in their entirety. We must be ever-vigilant in protecting our natural resources for current and future generations.”

Enacted under the Nixon Administration in 1973, the ESA is intended “to halt and reverse the trend toward species extinction, whatever the cost.” Under the ESA, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) are both responsible for listing species as “endangered” or “threatened” and designating “critical habitat” for each such species based on “the best scientific data available.” Critical habitat is particularly important for ensuring that listed species have the ability to recover to sustainable population levels so that they eventually no longer need to be listed.

In the final months of the Trump Administration, FWS and NMFS finalized three rules that dramatically altered longstanding ESA regulations governing protections for newly-listed threatened species; the processes for listing and delisting species as endangered or threatened and for designating critical habitat; and requirements for evaluating and mitigating the effects of proposed federal agency actions on listed species and critical habitat. In 2019, a coalition of 20 attorneys general and the City of New York — co-led by the states of California, Massachusetts and Maryland — challenged these three rules in court as unlawful under the ESA. At the request of FWS and NMFS, the court remanded these three rules to FWS and NMFS for reconsideration without vacating or ruling on the merits of the challenged rules, meaning that there was never any court decision on the states’ claims regarding the unlawfulness of the Trump rules, and the rules remain in effect.

The Biden Administration’s proposal would largely rescind the unlawful Trump rules governing protections for newly-listed threatened species and for species listings and critical habitat designations, but would leave intact most of the unlawful Trump rules as to requirements for consultation with FWS and NMFS on proposed federal agency actions.

Co-leading these comments alongside Attorney General Bonta are the attorneys general of Maryland and Massachusetts. Joining the co-leads in submitting the comments are the attorneys general of Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Illinois, New Jersey, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

A copy of the comment letter can be found here.

Attorney General Bonta Urges EPA to Strengthen Proposed Rule for “Advanced Recycling” Facilities

August 22, 2023
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

OAKLAND — California Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced co-leading a coalition of 15 attorneys general in urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to strengthen its proposed rule for advanced recycling facilities. “Advanced recycling” — also known as “chemical recycling” — refers to the heat or solvent-based processes that, according to the plastics industry, allows “more types of used plastics…to be recaptured and remanufactured into new plastics and products.” In reality, not only is 86 to 99 percent of the plastic waste used in the advanced recycling process typically destroyed, but also plastic waste itself can contain many harmful impurities, including arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury, and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). 

“There is no denying that the EPA is moving in the right direction: the advanced recycling process is woefully under-regulated, threatening both human health and our environment,” said Attorney General Bonta. “However, my fellow attorneys general and I are urging the EPA to strengthen its proposed rule. With the United States having the unfortunate distinction of being the world’s leading generator of plastic waste, more aggressive action is required.”

The proposed rule, which was announced on June 15, 2023, seeks to prevent the use of plastic waste that contains impurities identified by EPA. In specific, if an advanced recycling company wants to manufacture any one of the 18 chemical substances subject to the proposed rule — in order to ultimately turn the chemical substance into fuel or plastic — the company must first ensure that the plastic waste it intends to use is free of certain impurities. If the company's plastic waste contains those impurities, it will have to notify the EPA and potentially be subject to additional regulatory requirements.  

In their comment letter, the attorneys general:

  • Underscore that the proposed rule falls short of covering the entire range of impurities associated with plastic waste.
  • Recommend that EPA require testing and certification to ensure that the proposed rule is effective and enforceable. Under the proposed rule, it is unclear how EPA will verify that companies manufacturing one of the 18 substances are doing so using plastic waste free of harmful impurities.
  • Recommend that EPA more thoroughly analyze the proposed rule’s implications for environmental justice concerns. Advanced recycling facilities are disproportionately located in communities of color and low-income communities, putting the health of residents at risk. 

Attorney General Bonta is committed to addressing the plastic pollution crisis. On April 28, 2022, he announced an investigation into the fossil fuel and petrochemical industries for their role in causing and exacerbating the global plastics pollution crisis. On November 2, 2022, he sent letters to plastic bags manufacturers demanding that they substantiate their claims that the bags are recyclable. On April 25, 2023, he led a coalition of 16 states in urging the Federal Trade Commission to update its Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims to exclude chemical recycling from the definition of recycling. On August 1, 2023, he announced leading a coalition of 14 states in urging the Biden Administration to adopt a more comprehensive strategy to combat the plastic pollution crisis.

Co-leading these comments alongside Attorney General Bonta are the Attorneys General of Maryland, Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia. Joining the co-leads in submitting the comments are the Attorneys General of Connecticut, Hawaii, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.

A copy of the comment letter to EPA can be found here.

Attorney General Bonta Supports EPA's Proposed Rule Regarding Fossil Fuel-Fired Power Plants

August 9, 2023
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced joining a coalition of 20 attorneys general and six cities in filing a comment letter supporting a proposed rule by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) that would regulate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from fossil fuel-fired power plants. Fossil fuel-fired power plants — especially coal- and gas-fired plants — are one of the nation’s leading sources of GHG emissions. It was estimated that 25% percent of the nation’s carbon dioxide emissions in 2021 were attributable to this sector, second only to the transportation sector (28%). In the comment letter, the attorneys general underscore that the proposed rule is based on cost-effective and adequately demonstrated pollution control technologies, and would advance the states’ ongoing interest in addressing climate change. The attorneys general also recommend several ways that the proposed rule could be strengthened.

“Day in and day out, we are seeing the dangerous effects of climate change, with environmental justice communities bearing the brunt of the harm. No state — whether red or blue — is being spared,” said Attorney General Bonta. “I join my fellow attorneys general both in supporting the proposed rule, which would reduce 617 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions through 2042, and in urging EPA to achieve even greater emission reductions by adopting our recommendations.” 

 In the comment letter, the attorneys general:

  • Explain that the proposed rule is “within the four corners of the Supreme Court’s decision last year in West Virginia v. EPA” and consistent with Congress's ambitious actions to curb power plants' GHG emissions, including in the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed into law by President Biden on November 15, 2021 and the Inflation Reduction Act signed into law by President Biden on August 16, 2022. 
  • Support the proposed rule’s emission limits for new electrical generating units and its emission guidelines for existing units, which states must meet or exceed in stringency. 
  • Support the proposed rule’s repeal of the Affordable Clean Energy rule, which was promulgated under the Trump Administration, because it is inconsistent with Section 111 of the Clean Air Act and may result in an increase in GHG emissions from the power sector.
  • Recommend that EPA simplify the standards of performance for new gas-fired electrical generating units to support both carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) and clean hydrogen, two types of pollution control strategies; broaden the proposed rule to regulate more existing gas-fired electrical generating units and secure more emission reductions from these power plants; and move up by two years (to January 1, 2038) the date on which coal-fired electrical generating units are categorized as long-term units, and thereby required to achieve an emission limit of 90% CCS.

In submitting the letter, Attorney General Bonta joins the attorneys general of Arizona, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia as well as the chief legal officers of the City and County of Denver, and the Cities of Boulder (CO), Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and Philadelphia.

A copy of the comment letter is available here.

Attorney General Bonta Leads Bipartisan Coalition in Opposing 3M’s Proposed PFAS Settlement

July 26, 2023
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

Multistate Coalition Represents Approximately 183 Million People, More Than Half of U.S. Population

OAKLAND – Leading a bipartisan coalition of 23 attorneys general, Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced California's opposition to a proposed class action settlement that fails to adequately hold accountable the 3M Company (3M) for contaminating Americans’ drinking water supply. Under the proposed settlement, water providers would withdraw the hundreds of lawsuits they have filed against 3M over its use of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — commonly referred to as “PFAS” or toxic “forever chemicals” — in a wide range of consumer products and firefighting foams. PFAS are stable in the environment, resistant to degradation, persistent in soil, and known to leach into groundwater. The proposed settlement is subject to court approval.

“PFAS can cause serious health impacts — including various forms of cancers, developmental defects, infertility, diabetes, and liver damage — and have been frequently detected in water systems nationwide. As a result, the stakes could not be higher,” said Attorney General Bonta. “While I appreciate the effort that went into it, the proposed settlement in its current form does not adequately account for the pernicious damage that 3M has done in so many of our communities. I have both a moral and legal obligation to voice my opposition, and I thank the court for considering our concerns.” 

The proposed settlement would apply to nearly every public water provider in the United States, even those that have not sued and even those that have yet to test for the presence of PFAS in their water. In return for waiving their claims, 3M would allegedly pay out $10.5 to $12.5 billion to water providers, an amount that is worth far less because of certain provisions that could ultimately force water providers to reimburse 3M for many costs. 

On November 10, 2022, Attorney General Bonta filed a lawsuit against 20 PFAS manufacturers, including 3M, for endangering public health, causing irreparable harm to the state's natural resources, and engaging in a widespread campaign to deceive the public. While he continues to vigorously prosecute that case, Attorney General Bonta has moved to block the proposed 3M settlement because it threatens California’s interests.

In the brief filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, the California-led coalition warns that:

  • Individual water providers would be bound by the proposed settlement unless they proactively opt out, whether or not they have sued 3M or already tested for PFAS. Troublingly, they would have to make their opt-out decisions without knowing how much they would actually receive and, in many cases, before knowing the extent of contamination in their water supplies and the cost of remediating it.
  • The proposed settlement contains an indemnification clause, which shifts liability from 3M to water suppliers bound by settlement because they decided not to proactively opt-out. For example, if a cancer cluster develops in a PFAS-impacted community and the victims sue 3M, 3M would likely be able to seek compensation from the community’s public water supplier for any amount it owed to the victims. As such, the proposed settlement is worth far less than the advertised $10.5 billion to $12.5 billion.

PFAS have been widely used in consumer products including food packaging, cookware, clothing, carpets, shoes, fabrics, polishes, waxes, paints, and cleaning products, as well as in firefighting foams designed to quickly smother liquid fuel fires. In 2021, the California Legislature passed and Governor Newsom signed Assembly Bill 1200, which restricts the manufacture, distribution, and sale of food packaging that contains PFAS and requires manufacturers of cookware to disclose the presence of certain chemicals on the internet or product label.

The California Attorney General’s office is committed to addressing PFAS contamination. In addition to the November 2022 lawsuit against PFAS manufacturers and today’s action, Attorney General Bonta joined a multistate comment letter in May 2023 supporting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s first-ever proposed regulation of PFAS in drinking water. Further, in November 2021, the office joined a multistate letter to the United States Senate supporting pending PFAS legislation; in June 2020, the office joined a multistate letter urging the EPA to regulate PFAS under the Safe Drinking Water Act; and in April 2020, the office joined a multistate letter to the EPA advocating rigorous PFAS standards for imported products under the Toxic Substances Control Act.

Joining Attorney General Bonta in opposing the proposed settlement are the attorneys general of Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Wisconsin, as well as the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. 

A copy of the motion to intervene is available here and of the opposition here.

Attorney General Bonta Secures Settlement Regarding Unlawful Construction of Trump Border Wall

July 17, 2023
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

OAKLAND – Leading a coalition of 18 states, California Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced a settlement of lawsuits over the unlawful construction of border wall projects that occurred during the Trump Administration. California-led coalitions of states sued the Trump Administration on two occasions — in 2019 and 2020 — alleging that it was illegally diverting taxpayer funds authorized for other purposes to construct a border wall in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and California. As part of today’s settlement, the Biden Administration agrees to cease construction of border barriers with the challenged funds and take several important measures to remediate the environmental harm caused by the construction, including providing funding for the protection of thousands of acres of crucial sensitive habitat in California. The Biden Administration also confirms in the settlement agreement that it has restored funding for military construction projects in the plaintiff states. The Sierra Club and Southern Borders Communities Coalition, nonprofit organizations that also sued the Trump Administration, are settling their claims for these actions as well. 

“The Trump Border Wall is officially a relic of the past, which is where it belongs,” said Attorney General Bonta. “With environmental mitigation projects coming online to protect our sensitive ecosystem along the U.S.-Mexico border and the confirmation of over $427 million in funding restored for military construction projects, today’s settlement ushers in a new beginning. I am grateful to the Biden Administration for working with us in good faith and making this announcement possible.” 

The California Attorney General’s Office secured two District Court judgments declaring President Donald J. Trump’s diversion of funds for border wall construction unlawful and enjoining further construction of the barriers. The Ninth Circuit affirmed both judgments. On a 5-4 vote, in 2019 the United States Supreme Court allowed the construction to proceed while the litigation was pending without ruling on the legality of the transfers or construction. Upon taking office, President Joe Biden issued a Proclamation that ceased all construction of the border wall proposed by the Trump Administration. In response, the Supreme Court sent the cases back to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Among the settlement terms are the following:

  • The Department of Homeland Security will provide $25 million to California that may be used for one of two purposes: to help fund an environmental nonprofit’s purchase of the Otay Village 14 property in San Diego County, an environmentally sensitive set of parcels totaling over 1,200 acres that are located near the U.S.-Mexico border and valued at approximately $60 million (with the environmental non-profit securing the remaining $35 million of the purchase price from other sources), or if the environmental nonprofit cannot secure the additional funds needed for the Otay Village 14 property acquisition, to fund Phase 3 environmental mitigation projects, including consideration of land acquisitions for conservation purposes in the Proctor Valley/Lower Otay Lakes area of San Diego County.
  • The Department of Homeland Security will install small and large wildlife passages in the border barrier system for several endangered species. If exigent circumstances arise or border security operations demand it, the Department of Homeland Security may install gates to enable those passages to be closed.
  • The Department of Homeland Security will provide $1.1 million to fund programs that monitor several federally endangered species, including the Peninsular Bighorn Sheep, Sonoran Desert Pronghorn, Mexican Gray Wolf, ocelot, and jaguar. 
  • The parties confirm that $427,296,000 in funding for military construction projects in the plaintiff states of California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maryland, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Virginia, and Wisconsin has been restored. Exact amounts per state can be found on page 7 of the settlement agreement.

Joining Attorney General Bonta in announcing today’s settlement are the attorneys general of Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

A copy of the settlement agreement can be found here.

Attorney General Bonta Submits Comment Letter Regarding EPA's Proposed Greenhouse Gas Standards for Light- and Medium-Duty Vehicles

July 6, 2023
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

OAKLAND — Leading a coalition of 26 States and Cities, California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced today that he has submitted a comment letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding its proposed greenhouse gas (GHG) and criteria pollutant standards for light- and medium-duty highway vehicles model years 2027 through 2032. While EPA’s proposal would lead to measurable progress — a 56 percent reduction in GHG emissions levels from the model year 2026 levels for light-duty vehicles, and a 44 percent reduction in GHG emissions levels from the model year 2026 levels for medium-duty vehicles — Attorney General Bonta urges EPA to move forward with more stringent GHG and criteria pollutant standards, which technological advancements make feasible nationwide. Light- and medium-duty vehicles include passenger cars, sport utility vehicles (SUVs), pickup trucks, and vans.  

“Under the Biden Administration, EPA is once again taking seriously our moral and legal obligation to address climate change and air pollution,” said Attorney General Bonta. “Precisely for that reason, our coalition is asking EPA to adopt standards more stringent than its proposed standards. This July 4th was the warmest day ever recorded worldwide — it should serve as a wake-up call. We can and we must meet the moment.” 

The transportation sector is the largest source of GHG emissions in the United States, with light-duty vehicles being the largest contributor within that sector. In addition, light- and medium-duty vehicles are a significant source of non-GHG pollutants that detrimentally affect air quality. Both the impacts of climate change and poor air quality disproportionately harm environmental justice communities. 

In their letter, the attorneys general and cities:

  • Emphasize that strong emissions standards are necessary to protect the environment and public health. From extreme heat to wildfires to drought, they note that we are already experiencing the devastating impacts of climate change, which will continue to mount and compound with rising concentrations of GHGs in the atmosphere.
  • Detail that the technologies necessary to reduce GHGs and criteria pollutants from new motor vehicles already exist and are widely in use in the market today.
  • Explain that standards more stringent than EPA’s proposed standards would comport with its statutory mandate in Section 202(a). Under Section 202(a)(1) of the Clean Air Act, EPA “shall by regulation prescribe . . . standards applicable to the emission of any air pollutant from any class or classes of new motor vehicles . . . , which in [its] judgment cause, or contribute to, air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.”

In submitting the comment letter, Attorney General Bonta is joined by the attorneys general of Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin; the People of the State of Michigan; the Commonwealths of Massachusetts and Pennsylvania; and the Cities of Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, New York, and Oakland.
A copy of the comment letter is available here. On June 19, 2023, Attorney General Bonta submitted a similar comment letter to EPA regarding its proposed GHG standards for heavy-duty vehicles.

Governor Newsom, Attorney General Bonta, CARB Chair Randolph Lead Coalition in Defense of California’s Truck Emissions Regulations

June 28, 2023
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

OAKLAND – California Governor Gavin Newsom, California Attorney General Rob Bonta, and California Air Resources Board (CARB) Chair Liane Randolph today led a coalition of states and cities in moving to intervene in lawsuits challenging the decision by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to authorize CARB regulations that would speed the adoption of zero-emission trucks. The regulations would help California tackle its significant climate and air quality challenges by reducing greenhouse gases, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, and other emissions from medium- and heavy-duty vehicles. Trucking and petroleum industry groups — but not vehicle or engine manufacturers — are among the petitioners seeking judicial review of EPA’s action to grant CARB’s request for waivers of preemption, which allowed these CARB regulations to move forward. California, along with a coalition of other states and cities, is moving to intervene to defend its ability to enforce the laws.
“Tackling truck pollution is one of the single most important actions California is taking to clean our air and protect the health of millions,” said Governor Newsom. “Truck pollution is hurting communities across our state – especially underserved communities who are on the front lines of the climate crisis. We did not back down against radical efforts to undo our zero emission vehicle rules and we won’t back down from defending these commonsense, life-saving clean truck policies.”
“It’s no secret that California has air quality challenges — that’s precisely why we are seeking court permission to defend EPA’s waiver for our critical truck emission regulations,” said Attorney General Bonta. “Premature deaths, childhood asthma, and cardiovascular problems are among some of the adverse health impacts experienced by those who live in areas with high truck activity, many of whom are lower income and people of color. These communities are also often hit first and worst by climate change. This unfortunate reality demands action from us all.”
“Communities across our state have long endured some of the most polluted air in the nation, a public health and climate crisis that requires urgency and action,” said CARB Chair Randolph. “We are taking an important step to defend our right to protect the health of Californians with emission standards that for decades have spurred necessary innovations in clean vehicle technology and put us on a path toward zero-emissions transportation.”
The truck emission regulations at issue include the following:

  • Advanced Clean Trucks regulation, which aims to accelerate the widespread adoption of zero-emission vehicles in the medium- and heavy-duty truck sector by requiring manufacturers of medium- and heavy-duty trucks to sell increasing numbers of zero-emission vehicles.
  • Zero Emission Airport Shuttle regulation, which would accelerate the adoption of zero-emission vehicle technology in airport shuttles at the 13 largest California airports, including Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), San Francisco International Airport (SFO), San Diego International Airport (SAN), and Sacramento International Airport (SMF). 
  • Heavy-Duty Emissions Warranty regulation, which, among other things, would lengthen the period during which manufacturers must guarantee the emissions performance of their on-road diesel engines.

Under the federal Clean Air Act, California may request a waiver of preemption from EPA to enforce emission standards for new motor vehicles. EPA must grant a waiver request unless the record supports one of three, limited findings for denial. Most other states have a choice of adopting California’s standards to apply in their jurisdictions or relying instead on federal standards.
Joining California in filing the motion to intervene are the States of Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington; the Commonwealths of Massachusetts and Pennsylvania; the District of Columbia; and the Cities of Los Angeles and New York.
A copy of the motion to intervene can be found here.