SACRAMENTO – A bill introduced to the California legislature
in March in an effort to hold fossil fuel companies accountable for allegedly deceptive
and fraudulent practices related to the scientific evidence surrounding climate
change was passed by the state senate judiciary committee earlier this month.
The bill was introduced by Sen. Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) and
would extend the statute of limitations in state law to enable law enforcement
to hold offending fossil fuel companies accountable for allegedly fraudulent statements
made regarding climate change.
The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), an independent science group that is
sponsoring the bill, said on May 3 that the
bill was passed by the committee by a vote of 4-2. The deadline for
consideration on the full senate floor is June 3.
“We now hope that California can stay at the forefront of
holding fossil fuel companies accountable for their deception,” Deborah Silvey, of Fossil Free California, told the Northern
UCS said in a news release that The Climate Science Truth
and Accountability Act (SB 1161) followed the release of internal corporate
memos and other evidence purportedly showing that oil, gas and coal companies conspired
since the late 1980s to deceive the public about climate change. The bill would
extend the statute of limitations under California’s Unfair Competition Law to
30 years from four years.
“We are outraged that fossil fuel companies have known about
the risks of climate change for decades, and that they spent those precious
decades denying the science of climate change,” Silvey said. “They put their
short-term profit ahead of the public good.”
UCS said peer-reviewed research published in January 2014 by
the science journal Climatic Change indicates 90 companies are responsible for
two-thirds of total global carbon pollution, and five companies have emitted
12.5 percent of total global emissions. Also, the research showed that 50
percent of the total global emissions of heat-trapping carbon pollution has
been emitted since 1988, after the fossil fuel companies’ own scientists had
agreed with the mainstream scientific consensus that the burning of fossil
fuels was causing a rise in global temperatures.
“California already is experiencing the costly, damaging
effects of climate change,” UCS California and Western States Director Adrienne
Alvord said in a news release. “We want to ensure that the state has the ability to hold
fossil fuel companies legally accountable for the decades of deception and
damages they have caused to public health, property and the environment in
UCS said the latest data from the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and National Aeronautics and Space
Administration (NASA) show that February set yet another record as the planet’s warmest
month since record-keeping began in the late 1800s. And UCS climate scientists
say that global climate change is worsening regional harm in California.
For its part, Silvey said, “Fossil Free California is
dedicated to convincing institutions to divest from all fossil fuels because of
the severe risk they pose to our climate.”