A California lawmaker wants to change a law to make it easier for state prosecutors to go after companies skeptical of global warming. The proposed bill would punish skeptical companies for “many years of public deception” with regards to global warming science.
“I want to give law enforcement the tools they need to hold people accountable for their actions if that’s where the evidence takes them,” Democratic state Sen. Ben Allen, who proposed legislation targeting skeptics, recently told InsideClimate News.
Allen’s proposed legislation would extend the statute of limitations under California’s Unfair Competition Law from four to 30 years specifically for “behavior related to scientific evidence of climate change,” according to a summary of the bill. Allen’s proposal comes as state prosecutors pledged to investigate Exxon Mobil for allegedly misleading the public about global warming.
“Given the environmental, health, and economic impacts that Californians are already paying for as a result of the fossil fuel industry’s many years of public deception and their efforts to block action on climate change, it is important to hold the industry responsible,” Allen’s office wrote in the bill’s summary.
The legislation is part of a larger effort by Democrats and environmentalists to draw parallels between oil companies and the tobacco industry as state attorneys general investigate Exxon’s disclosures about global warming’s risks to shareholders.
California’s attorney general is already investigating Exxon for allegedly misleading shareholders about the risks the company faces from global warming. New York, Massachusetts and the U.S. Virgin Islands have also launched investigations into Exxon’s global warming stance.
“Keeping the statute limited to only four years undermines the state’s ability to hold fossil fuel companies responsible for their unfair and deceptive practices that extend back well beyond four years, as well as the damages and risks that Californians and everyone else must face for centuries to come,” according to Allen’s office.
AG investigations into Exxon, and Allen’s bill, were inspired by reports from InsideClimate News and Columbia University claiming the company knew of the risks of global warming for decades, but funded groups skeptical of warming and opposed regulations on greenhouse gas emissions.