Attorney General Bonta Files Amicus Brief Supporting Oakland and San Francisco’s Efforts to Hold Big Oil Accountable for Misleading the Public, Worsening the Climate Crisis

Friday, May 12, 2023
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OAKLAND — California Attorney General Rob Bonta, leading a coalition of 16 attorneys general, filed an amicus brief in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals supporting the City of Oakland and the City and County of San Francisco’s efforts to hold major fossil fuel-producing companies accountable for their misleading actions that have worsened the climate crisis. In their consolidated case, City of Oakland v. BP et al., the California municipalities seek to hold fossil fuel companies accountable for misleading the public about the known dangers of fossil fuel combustion and exacerbating the effects of climate change. In the amicus brief filed today, the attorneys general ask the Ninth Circuit to uphold a federal district court ruling and allow the case to proceed in state court. 

“Our state and local governments have a duty to protect the welfare of our residents, and for decades, Big Oil has relied on deceptive tactics to mislead consumers about the harms of fossil fuel use,” said Attorney General Bonta. “In today’s amicus brief we’re supporting Oakland and San Francisco’s efforts to hold accountable corporations looking to fill their pockets at the expense of the health and wellbeing of the American people. We ask the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to protect our residents and future generations by allowing the case to proceed in state court. At the California Department of Justice, we will use every tool at our disposal to ensure Big Oil is held responsible for deceiving the public and exacerbating our climate crisis.”

Although San Francisco and Oakland originally filed separate cases in state court in September 2017, the cases were removed to federal court and consolidated. The plaintiffs then filed a motion to remand the cases to state court, which the federal district court initially denied. The Ninth Circuit reversed on appeal in May 2020, finding that Oakland and San Francisco’s state nuisance claims do not arise under federal law. Subsequently, the federal district court granted the plaintiffs’ renewed motion to remand the cases to state court. The case is currently pending in Ninth Circuit after the oil companies’ November 2022 appeal of the district court’s decision that ruled the suit belongs in state court. 

In today’s amicus brief, the attorneys general argue that:

  • States and municipalities play a vital role in protecting their citizens’ health and welfare from deceptive commercial conduct and environmental harms, including the local effects of climate change.
  •  State courts are entrusted with, and uniquely capable of, adjudicating state-law claims, even when state-law claims involve issues of national importance. 
  • Plaintiffs’ state-law claims do not raise a substantial issue of federal law, and fossil fuel companies’ contracts with the military do not entitle the companies to federal jurisdiction. 

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

In filing the amicus brief, Attorney General Bonta was joined by the attorneys general of Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Washington, and the District of Columbia. 

A copy of the brief can be found here.

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PDF icon SF-Oakland 9th Cir Amicus_20230512.pdf458.54 KB