California AG to investigate fossil fuel firms for plastic pollution
California Attorney General Rob Bonta said on Thursday that he intends to launch an investigation into the fossil fuel and petrochemical industries for their contribution to global plastic pollution.
Bonta also said he intends to subpoena ExxonMobil as part of this process.
“The public has been aggressively deceived by some of the largest and most influential corporations in the world,” Bonta said at a Thursday press conference.
“The fossil fuel and petrochemical industries have engaged in a half-century campaign of deception that has harmed our environment, our people and our natural resources,” he added.
The investigation aims to identify companies that have either caused or exacerbated the plastic pollution crisis. Bonta said his office will examine “the industry’s historic and ongoing efforts to deceive the public and whether and to what extent these actions may have violated the law.”
“We will not hesitate to hold these companies accountable if the law was violated,” he added.
Speaking to reporters from Dockweiler State Beach in Los Angeles, Bonta said that plastic and other waste must be removed daily from these sands, which he characterized as “a small example of the much larger problem.”
He said the problem stems back to the 1980s, when the plastics industry “began an aggressive and deceptive marketing and advertising campaign to convince the public that we could recycle our way out of the plastic waste problem.”
“The fact is, it was all a big ruse,” he said, noting that the vast majority of plastics cannot be recycled.
Bonta said ExxonMobil will be a specific target of the investigation. He described the company as “a major source of global plastics pollution” that has embarked on a “decades-long plastics deception campaign.”
He also called the company, one of the biggest producers of plastics in the world, “one of the leaders when it comes to deception.”
In response to Bonta’s announcement, the American Chemistry Council — a trade association that represents major U.S. petrochemical and plastics firms — said in a statement that “plastics belong in our economy, not our environment” and that “America’s plastic makers are committed to a more sustainable future.”
The council added that plastic makers have proposed plans that would require all plastic packaging to include at least 30 percent recycled materials by 2030, establish a producer responsibility system and support a legally binding global agreement to stop plastic leakage.
The Hill has also reached out to ExxonMobil for comment.
“We’re going to be thorough, comprehensive, objective, complete fair in our investigation, and then based on what we find, we will determine whether we can take legal action and if so, what that legal action will be,” Bonta said.
The head of Greenpeace USA’s plastics campaign applauded the move by Bonta.
“Hopefully, this is a sign that policymakers are ready to start holding corporations accountable,” said Graham Forbes, the plastics global campaign lead at Greenpeace.
—Updated at 5:17 p.m.
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