Attorney General Bonta Announces $2.5 Million Settlement with East Oakland Metal Foundry

July 2, 2024
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

OAKLAND  California Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced a $2.5 million multi-party settlement with AB&I Foundry (AB&I), which manufactured cast-iron and metal pipe fittings in East Oakland. The settlement resolves two consolidated Proposition 65 lawsuits filed against AB&I and its parent company, McWane, Inc., by the environmental justice organization Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) and the California Department of Justice’s Bureau of Environmental Justice. Both lawsuits alleged that AB&I unlawfully emitted hexavalent chromium — an extremely potent carcinogen — into the air without providing clear and reasonable warnings to residents, in violation of Proposition 65. As part of the $2.5 million combined settlement, the California Air Resources Board (CARB), which received assistance from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, is also separately resolving nuisance odor allegations brought against AB&I for a long history of odor complaints in the community.

“I expanded our Bureau of Environmental Justice so that it could better protect low-income communities and communities of color from environmental pollution. East Oakland is one of those very communities,” said Attorney General Bonta. “While we cannot undo the harm AB&I caused, today’s settlement holds the company accountable, provides critical health services to community members, and trains local students in environmental science and advocacy strategies. I am deeply grateful to the California Air Resources Board and Communities for a Better Environment for their partnership.” 

“Collaboration with the Attorney General’s Office and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District was key in eliminating the nuisance odors from AB&I that compromised air quality in one of California’s most vulnerable communities,” said California Air Resources Board Chair Liane Randolph. “The efforts of CARB and the District's enforcement teams removed a significant source of air pollution and led to AB&I providing funding for local community projects to clean Oakland’s air and address the local impacts of air pollution.”

"Communities for a Better Environment is proud to stand alongside the Attorney General's Office and CARB in this landmark settlement, which not only seeks justice for our community but also sets a precedent for holding polluters accountable,” said Esther Goolsby, East Oakland resident and CBE Northern California Co-Director. “This settlement sends a clear message that the health and well-being of our community are of paramount importance, and any activities that harm our environment and endanger our residents will not be tolerated. We also express our appreciation to the community members, advocates, and organizations who have supported us throughout this legal process."

As part of the Proposition 65 settlement, McWane will pay a total of $1.3 million, of which half will be allocated toward supplemental environmental projects. Supplemental environmental projects offset civil penalties by sending money toward projects that address the harm caused by a defendant. The remainder of the Proposition 65 settlement will go toward civil penalties, and attorneys’ fees and costs. The following is a breakdown of the $1.3 million settlement:

  • $500,000 to Roots Community Health, which will operate mobile health clinics in Oakland that provide medical services to children with respiratory issues and unhoused community members, who are among those most directly impacted by AB&I’s emissions.
  • $150,000 to the Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment’s “New Voices are Rising” program, which seeks to amplify civic participation in under-represented communities and increase young people’s commitment to environmental justice by training Oakland students to advocate for and advance important community-centered environmental improvement projects.
  • $237,336 to CBE in reimbursement of their attorneys’ fees and costs associated with this matter.
  • $281,414 to the Attorney General’s Office in civil penalties and reimbursement of attorneys’ fees and costs associated with prosecuting this matter.
  • $112,500 in civil penalties to the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), the lead agency for the implementation of Proposition 65. 

McWane will also pay $1.2 million to settle nuisance odor violations with CARB. Like the California Department of Justice, CARB intends to allocate half of its settlement total to supplemental environmental projects, also involving Roots Community Health and the Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment. CARB can be contacted for additional information regarding its settlement.

California’s voters passed Proposition 65 in 1986 to protect people from exposure to chemicals that cause cancer and reproductive harm. CBE alleged in its Proposition 65 lawsuit brought on December 16, 2021 that AB&I failed to warn East Oakland residents about exposure to hexavalent chromium and other chemicals at levels that exceeded regulatory limits. The California Department of Justice’s Bureau of Environmental Justice filed a separate lawsuit on February 15, 2022, alleging violations of Proposition 65’s warning requirements as well as claims for unfair business practices and harm to natural resources. The Alameda Superior Court consolidated the California Department of Justice’s lawsuit with CBE’s lawsuit. In 2022, McWane closed the AB&I facility.

East Oakland’s population is 66% Latino and 21% African American. Residents live to the north, east, and south of the foundry. Approximately 10 schools are located within a mile of the former foundry, including Acorn, Woodland, and Encompass Academy Elementary Schools, which are less than half a mile away. Numerous unhoused Californians live within a quarter mile of the foundry, including along the foundry’s fenceline. Hexavalent chromium is listed as a carcinogen and reproductive toxicant by the State of California, and requires a warning when exposures exceed a certain threshold. When hexavalent chromium is inhaled, it is 5,000 times more potent than the carcinogen benzene, and it can cause lung and other forms of cancer, as well as adverse respiratory health impacts.

A copy of the proposed stipulated consent judgment has been filed with the Court for its review and can be found here.

Attorney General Bonta Leads Multistate Coalition to Defend U.S. EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Standards for Heavy-Duty Vehicles

May 23, 2024
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

OAKLAND — On behalf of California and leading a multistate coalition of 23 attorneys general and four cities, California Attorney General Rob Bonta and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) filed a motion to intervene in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to help defend the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s final greenhouse gas emission standards for heavy-duty vehicles. These vehicles include freight trucks, delivery trucks, buses, shuttles, and vocational vehicles such as street sweepers and refuse haulers. The rule will reduce 1 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions and result in $10 billion annual climate benefits, $300 million in annual non-greenhouse gas public health benefits and $3.5 billion in annual operational savings for the trucking industry over the lifetime of these vehicles. Currently, the rule is being challenged by 25 Republican-led states, which seek to stop emissions standards for heavy-duty vehicles from taking effect. 

“We cannot let groundless claims derail our prompt action against this climate crisis,” said Attorney General Bonta. “Not only does EPA’s rule provide robust economic benefits, it also protects communities from harmful air pollution, especially communities of color and low-income communities that disproportionately bear the burden of this pollution. That’s why I will continue to fight to defend solutions based on science and facts.” 

“In California, while trucks represent only 6% of vehicles on the road, they generate almost 25% of greenhouse gas emissions from their exhaust, making them an essential sector for solutions that reduce pollution and clean the air,” said CARB Chair Liane Randolph. “The climate crisis and poor air quality that so many communities across the nation face needs to be tackled with strong policies that advance technological innovation, and California is proud to advocate for continued progress and America’s leadership on solutions.”

Transportation is the leading source of GHG emissions in the country, and heavy-duty vehicles contribute 25% of emissions within the sector, making them the second-largest contributor of transportation emissions. In addition, heavy-duty vehicles are a significant source of non-GHG pollution that detrimentally affects air quality and imposes serious health effects including premature death and asthma. The impacts of both climate change and poor air quality disproportionately harm environmental justice communities, especially the 72 million Americans who live near major truck freight routes, who are more likely to be people of color or low-income.

This intervention continues California’s support for the Biden Administration’s efforts to reduce emissions across the country. This April, Attorney General Bonta, alongside Governor Newsom and CARB, led a multistate coalition to help defend EPA’s emissions standards for light- and medium-duty vehicles for model years 2027-2032.

Attorney General Bonta and CARB are joined by the attorneys general of Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia, the city and county of Denver, and the cities of Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York in filing the motion.

A copy of the motion can be found here.

Attorney General Bonta: Gas Pipeline Capacity Expansion a Threat to the Environment

October 19, 2023
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

OAKLAND — California Attorney General Rob Bonta today issued the following statement in response to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) decision allowing the expansion of TC Energy’s Gas Transmission Northwest Express (GTN) pipeline capacity. TC Energy is the same company behind the now-abandoned Keystone XL pipeline. Stretching over 1,377 miles from British Columbia, Canada and terminating just north of California, the GTN pipeline will increase the amount of natural gas carried by the pipeline by 150 million cubic feet per day, resulting in increased greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution impacts. 

“I'm deeply disappointed with FERC's decision. When we expand gas infrastructure, it’s all too often minority, low-income, and Indigenous communities that pay the price,” said Attorney General Bonta. “Day after day, we're seeing the effects of climate change. I vow to continue fighting to protect our environment."

On August 22, 2022, Attorney General Bonta joined the attorneys general of Washington and Oregon in filing a motion to intervene and requesting that FERC deny the application for Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity needed to expand the capacity of the GTN pipeline. In addition, that same day, the Western states submitted comments criticizing FERC’s draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the capacity expansion. The expansion is expected to result in more than 3.24 million metric tons of greenhouse gases emissions per year, including methane and carbon dioxide, and generate an estimated $12 billion in social costs. 

Attorney General Bonta Joins Comment Letter in Support of Proposal to Strengthen Federal NEPA Regulations

October 3, 2023
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

OAKLAND — California Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced joining a coalition of 18 attorneys general in filing a comment letter in support of the U.S. Council on Environmental Quality’s (CEQ) proposal to restore and strengthen its regulations implementing the federal National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Enacted in 1970, NEPA is one of the nation’s foremost environmental statutes. A wide range of federal actions — including the approval of significant energy and infrastructure projects and key decisions concerning the management of federal public lands — require compliance with NEPA.

“For decades, the National Environmental Policy Act has helped us understand and consider the impacts of proposed federal actions on the environment and communities,” said Attorney General Bonta. “By supporting the Council on Environmental Quality’s proposed changes and advocating for improvements, we can continue making even more positive change. At the California Department of Justice, we are committed to protecting our environment and ensuring a sustainable future for all Americans.”

In 2020, under the Trump Administration, CEQ unlawfully rolled back its longstanding NEPA regulations. Specifically, the CEQ improperly narrowed NEPA’s statutory provisions, threatened meaningful public participation, and sought to restrict judicial review of agency actions. The Biden-Harris Administration’s CEQ is now proposing to restore portions of its pre-2020 NEPA regulations and require NEPA review to include consideration of environmental justice and climate change effects.

In their comment letter, the attorneys general support CEQ’s proposal and recommend additional changes to strengthen the rule, including:

  • Strengthening analysis of climate change effects in all types of NEPA review, including requiring consideration of climate change effects when conducting environmental reviews of proposed actions that do not require preparation of an environmental impact statement.
  • Providing direction to agencies on how to evaluate cumulative disproportionate adverse effects on environmental justice communities.
  • Incorporating provisions of CEQ’s previously published greenhouse gas emissions guidance.

The comment letter represents the latest in a series of actions by the California Department of Justice aimed at protecting and strengthening the role of NEPA. In April 2023, Attorney General Bonta joined a multistate comment letter expressing support for the Biden Administration’s continued efforts to ensure meaningful reviews of the potential climate impacts of federal projects. In August 2020, then-Attorney General Xavier Becerra co-led a multistate coalition filing a lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s 2020 rule weakening NEPA regulations, and to restore rules for meaningful environmental review of federal projects under NEPA.

In filing the comment letter, Attorney General Bonta joins the attorneys general of Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia. 

A copy of the comment letter can be found here.

Attorney General Bonta Announces Settlement to Protect Environmental Justice Communities in West Oakland

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

OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced a settlement with the Port of Oakland (Port) and Eagle Rock Aggregates, Inc. (Eagle Rock) regarding the planned construction of a new 18-acre marine terminal less than one mile from the West Oakland community. Known as the Eagle Rock Aggregates Terminal project (Eagle Rock project), the marine terminal will be used for aggregate stockpiling and distribution. Aggregates are the raw materials used for construction projects, such as sand and gravel. On August 3, 2022, Attorney General Bonta intervened in a lawsuit filed by the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP), a local environmental justice organization, alleging that the Port's approval of the Eagle Rock project on February 24, 2022 violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) in several ways. Through settlement negotiations alongside WOEIP, Attorney General Bonta has secured binding commitments to mitigate the Eagle Rock project’s air quality impacts and provide other benefits for West Oakland residents. 

“For too long, environmental concerns raised by West Oakland residents have not been heeded. The Bureau of Environmental Justice within my office exists to right those wrongs, and today is proof that our efforts are making a positive difference," said Attorney General Rob Bonta. “Thanks to our settlement, and to the many contributions made by the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, the West Oakland community will finally be getting the types of mitigation measures it desperately needs and deserves for the Eagle Rock project. This, however, is not the end. I will continue fighting for the West Oakland community, and others like it, going forward."

"For generations West Oakland families have suffered some of the highest levels of asthma and respiratory disease in the state due to the pollution spewed by the freight industry. The Port of Oakland has been at the center of that industry,” said Brian Beveridge, co-director of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project. “State environmental regulators, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, and Attorney General Bonta all expressed concern about this project, and the Attorney General stood by our community in our fight to clean up this new facility. This is what environmental justice really looks like. We thank the Attorney General for joining this fight." 

West Oakland is a predominately low-income community of color that has borne the brunt of pollution from Port operations and other sources for decades. In 2017, the California Legislature enacted Assembly Bill (AB) 617 in order to reduce air pollution in California’s most vulnerable communities. AB 617 requires the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to identify communities across the state that experience disproportionate pollution burdens, and directs local air districts to take actions to reduce air pollution exposure in these communities, including working with stakeholders to produce community emissions reduction plans. In partnership with community leaders, CARB identified West Oakland as an AB 617 community in 2018, and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District adopted a community emissions reduction plan for the area in 2019. Protecting the West Oakland AB 617 community from the worst impacts of the Eagle Rock project and ensuring compliance with the community's emissions reduction plan was a primary reason for the Attorney General’s intervention in this case. Further, the California Department of Justice’s Bureau of Environmental Justice sent letters in October 2019 and January 2021 to the Port highlighting its strong concerns about the Eagle Rock project. 

Under the settlement, the Port and Eagle Rock have agreed to four categories of changes. First, the Port and Eagle Rock will be required to implement stronger and clearly specified protocols that use water to control fugitive dust from the three large stockpiles where the construction materials will be stored. Among other things, the aggregate stockpiles will be watered every day and the overhead watering systems will provide 100% watering coverage of each stockpile. These requirements are a dramatic improvement to the Eagle Rock project’s vague and limited watering requirements that were approved by the Port in February 2022.

Second, the Port and Eagle Rock have agreed to construct a marine vessel electrical shore power system at the Eagle Rock project location. Many marine vessels use diesel engines while docked at ports to power certain systems; electrical shore power infrastructure enables ships to turn off their polluting diesel engines and instead plug into the local electric grid. Using shore power instead of diesel engines significantly reduces nitrogen oxide and other pollutant emissions. The settlement requires the Port to plan to make shore power fully available to all ships docking at the Eagle Rock project no later than 2029, and requires Eagle Rock to procure at least one shore power-capable ship to ensure that at least 50% of all the aggregates brought to the Eagle Rock project are delivered using shore power-capable vessels. As approved by the Port in February 2022, the Eagle Rock project contained measures to reduce emissions from ships, but those measures would have been far less effective.

Third, the Port and Eagle Rock have agreed to incorporate additional electrification measures for its on-site equipment. A major source of air pollution from the Eagle Rock project is on-site equipment and vehicle trips generated by the movement of construction aggregates. Under the settlement, when each of the Eagle Rock project's hybrid front-end loaders — vehicles used to scoop, transport, and dump construction materials — reach the end of their useful life (15,000 hours of use), Eagle Rock will replace these front-end loaders with fully electric or other zero-emission vehicles, subject to availability and other conditions. As approved by the Port in February 2022, the Eagle Rock project's electrification measures were limited to merely considering other hybrid or electric options, and did not contain any commitments for Eagle Rock to replace their front-end loader vehicles with zero-emissions vehicles.

Fourth, the settlement agreement features meaningful procedural improvements and transparency commitments. The Port has agreed to stop relying on the outdated air quality impacts analysis in the 2002 Oakland Army Base Area Redevelopment Plan Environmental Impact Report for certain future projects, and will instead conduct new and updated air quality impact studies for those projects. The Port and Eagle Rock have agreed to community education measures, including providing a webinar or live educational session for the West Oakland community describing the Eagle Rock project’s operations. The Port will also work to identify a fiduciary to distribute the proceeds of the West Oakland Community Fund, a fund established after the Oakland Army Base closed in order to provide loans and grants to pay for projects to benefit the West Oakland community. Although the fund was established in 2003, some or all of the proceeds have yet to be distributed, and this settlement will finally conclude that process.

Attorney General Bonta is fighting environmental injustices throughout the state and giving a voice to frontline communities, like West Oakland, that are often under-resourced and overburdened. In April 2021, he announced the expansion of the Bureau of Environmental Justice – the first of its kind in a state attorney general’s office. In December 2021, he announced a settlement with the City of Huntington Park to ensure the development and adoption of a meaningful, tailored environmental justice element. In March 2022, he sent a letter to the County of Fresno identifying numerous deficiencies in its draft General Plan. In September 2023, he issued comprehensive guidance to local governments on effectively addressing environmental justice issues in their land use planning, as required by Senate Bill 1000.  

A copy of the final settlement agreement can be found here.

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.