The clean energy transition is happening. But Big Oil isn’t budging.

The fossil fuel industry is backsliding on its climate pledges. Earthjustice is filing lawsuits to keep pushing for the clean energy transition that science demands.

Oil fields in Kern County, California
Earthjustice halted a years-long effort by officials in Kern County, California, to fast-track oil and gas permits. We continue to fight new fossil fuel infrastructure as we help build the clean energy transition. (Christopher Halloran / Shutterstock)

The fossil fuel industry is no longer feeling the need to pretend it cares about meeting its climate commitments.

Take, for example, ExxonMobil’s 2022 commitment to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. A bold declaration, no doubt. But one that’s drastically undermined by the company’s recent purchase of a major shale oil producer that will increase Exxon’s fossil fuel production by almost twenty percent.

Exxon is hardly alone. Shell has watered down its climate commitments recently, and so has BP.

Behind the backsliding is a bigger strategy from the fossil fuel industry to cast doubt on, or even block, the clean energy transition and convince people to believe we will always need their dirty, polluting products. But we have the technologies now to transition to clean energy — and in part because of  Earthjustice litigation, that transition is already well underway.

These false promises don’t just make liars out of the fossil fuel industry. It also makes them willing participants in continuing the destruction of our planet and life on earth as we know it.

The costs of letting the industry delay are huge. Here are just a few:

  • Health impacts. Air pollution from using fossil fuels in industry, power generation, and transportation accounts for 5.1 million extra deaths a year worldwide. Air pollution is also linked to 100,000-200,000 deaths annually in the U.S.
  • Environmental damages. As recently as 2020, oil and gas companies’ total environmental liabilities based on their Securities and Exchange Commission records has equaled $1.5 billion. However, their estimated maximum combined environmental liabilities (i.e. cleanup costs for more than 57,000 oil and gas wells) surpasses $10 billion, based on Carbon Tracker estimates.
  • Economic losses. If we fail to make dramatic cuts in carbon pollution, “the U.S. could experience $155 billion in lost wages per year by 2090 due to the effects of extreme temperature, one of climate change’s many economic damages.”

Here at Earthjustice, we know that the technologies exist today to make the clean energy shift so that all of us — and especially those most vulnerable among us — do not have to keep bearing the costs of fossil fuel industry greed and shortsightedness. In an economy where many feel burdened because everyday prices are too high, and where the oil industry is enjoying record profits, it is unfair and unjust to allow the fossil fuel industry to keep putting profit above everything else. And we’re doing something about it.

While Earthjustice works to build out the clean energy transition and address our energy demands by pushing the use of clean energy technologies, we also recognize that fossil fuel use must go down. That’s why we’re shutting down existing fossil fuel projects, fighting new fossil fuel project proposals, and devoting considerable time and energy to building out the expansion of clean energy.

Most recently, Earthjustice attorneys halted a years-long effort by officials in Kern County, California, to fast-track oil and gas permit approvals in an area that’s one of the largest oil-producing regions in the U.S. and one that already suffers greatly from the fossil fuel industry. The California appeals court decision sends “a clear message that fossil fuel companies in California are not above the law,” says Earthjustice attorney Colin O’Brien.

We’re also working in the Ohio River Valley to stop the buildout of petrochemical infrastructure that relies on fossil fuels and emits highly toxic chemicals like benzene, vinyl chloride, and trichloroethylene. There, we notched an early win against the buildout by successfully challenging the approval of the Mountaineer Storage Hub, which would store explosive, fracked gas in underground caverns before being transferred to facilities like the cracker plant.

Earthjustice has  a long and successful history of shutting down fossil fuel export terminals across the Pacific Northwest. And we put pressure on a liquified natural gas (LNG) terminal buildout, leading to a Biden administration pause on those projects.

And we are fighting efforts by the fossil fuel industry to remain relevant by taking federal money to advance carbon capture and storage (CCS) and dirty hydrogen. These false climate solutions would allow them to cement a role for fossil fuels in the future energy mix.

Now is the time to get off of the deadly products of fossil fuels for good so that we can finally build the world that we all deserve.

Earthjustice’s Clean Energy Program uses the power of the law and the strength of partnership to accelerate the transition to 100% clean energy.