Attorney General Becerra: California Communities Must Be Allowed to Hold Fossil Fuel Producers Accountable for Costs of Climate Change

Wednesday, January 30, 2019
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, leading a multistate coalition, has filed an amicus brief supporting the California counties of Marin, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, and the cities of Imperial Beach, Richmond and Santa Cruz, in their lawsuit, County of San Mateo et al. v. Chevron Corporation, to hold petroleum and coal companies accountable under state law for actions contributing to climate change and the resulting harms from sea-level rise and other effects.

“California communities have struggled, and will continue to struggle, with the high costs of managing the devastating effects of climate change,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Our states and local governments have an important role in protecting the welfare of our residents, by holding accountable companies which profit from fossil fuels that exacerbate the effects of global warming.”

In their suit, the California cities and counties allege that the companies’ conduct exacerbates global warming and its impacts, including hotter temperatures, extreme weather events, rising sea level, and other irreversible harms – leaving local governments to manage the full costs of inundation, erosion, flooding, property damage, and threats to the health and safety of residents. 

The case is currently pending in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals after the oil companies attempted to challenge a district court decision that the coastal communities suit belongs in the state court. In the brief, Attorney General Becerra and the coalition of seven attorneys general, assert that the district court decision should be affirmed. The coalition argues that:

  • States play an important role in addressing climate change and protect human welfare, including providing a forum to decide cases related to climate change;
  • The Clean Air Act recognizes states’ role in reducing air pollution and does not indicate that the federal courts should have exclusive jurisdiction over cases involving climate change;
  • The defendants’ appeal to transfer the plaintiffs claim to federal court, knowing that similar claims have been displaced by Congress, could unjustly deny plaintiffs a remedy for harm.

Joining Attorney General Becerra in filing the brief are the Attorneys General of Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

A copy of the brief can be found here.

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