January 30, 2019

Whitehouse Files Brief in Landmark California Public Nuisance Case against Oil Companies

U.S. Senator: secretive corporate group’s argument needs to be put in context of its ‘decades-long campaign of disinformation, obstruction, and political intimidation’ to block climate action

Washington, DC – Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), a senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, has filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in County of San Mateo v. Chevron, in which Whitehouse challenges claims made by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in its brief filed in support of the oil industry. 

Whitehouse points out that the Chamber is hardly a voice for “thoughtful governmental policies that will have a meaningful impact on global climate change,” as the group suggests in its brief.  Instead, the Chamber is a shadowy functionary involved in a “decades-long campaign of disinformation, obstruction, and political intimidation designed to prevent democratically accountable branches of government from adopting any policies that would reduce carbon pollution,” Whitehouse writes.  That is vital context for the court to bear in mind, the Senator concludes.

The lawsuit, brought by four California local governments, alleges Chevron and other major oil companies created a public nuisance through the sale of their product, and waged a coordinated effort to conceal the effects of that product from the public.  The Chamber and other pro-industry groups have mounted a legal and PR campaign to aid the oil companies. 

Whitehouse has tracked the Chamber’s activities closely as a member of the Senate pursuing action on climate change.  Whitehouse’s brief shows that the Chamber is among the most dogged defenders of the fossil fuel industry in Washington, despite the fact that many of the companies represented on its board take public positions at odds with the Chamber’s actions. 

Unlike many of the local chambers of commerce doing vital civic engagement and business development work in communities nationwide, the U.S. Chamber is a trade group that routinely argues against climate action and other important public health and safety policies opposed by industry.  It refuses to disclose its financial supporters.   

Read Whitehouse’s brief here.


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