Lodi News-Sentinel

California accuses Exxon of deceiving public

- Susanne Rust and Rosanna Xia

LOS ANGELES — California’s attorney general has announced a first-of-its kind investigat­ion into the fossil fuel and petrochemi­cal industries for their alleged role in causing and exacerbati­ng a global crisis in plastic waste pollution.

Attorney General Rob Bonta said Thursday that his office has subpoenaed Exxon Mobil Corp. seeking informatio­n related to the company’s role in global plastics pollution.

“For more than half a century, the plastics industry has engaged in an aggressive campaign to deceive the public, perpetuati­ng a myth that recycling can solve the plastics crisis,” Bonta said.

Fossil fuels such as oil and gas are the raw material of most plastics. In recent decades, the accumulati­on of plastic waste has overwhelme­d waterways and oceans, sickening marine life and threatenin­g human health.

The announceme­nt comes amid an urgent and growing movement across California to curb plastic pollution by reducing it at its source. In the last two weeks, the city and county of Los Angeles have announced ordinances and directives to reduce plastic waste, while state legislator­s, lobbyists and negotiator­s debate a bill that could ban several forms of singleuse plastics.

Also, in November, California­ns will have the opportunit­y to vote on a ballot initiative designed to curb plastic pollution.

Speaking at Dockweiler State Beach — an area of Los Angeles County coast sandwiched between a Chevron oil refinery and a major sewage outflow — Bonta said that despite the public’s perception that plastics are heavily recycled, more than 90% of them end up either buried in landfills, burned or flushed into the ocean.

Bonta said internal documents from the 1970s warned industry executives that recycling was “infeasible” and that there was “serious doubt” that plastic recycling “can ever be made viable on an economic basis,” Indeed, despite the industry’s decadeslon­g recycling campaign, the vast majority of plastic products, by design, cannot be recycled and the U.S. plastic recycling rate has never broken 9%.

“In California and across the globe, we are seeing the catastroph­ic results of the fossil fuel industry’s decadeslon­g campaign of deception. Plastic pollution is seeping into our waterways, poisoning our environmen­t and blighting our landscapes,” Bonta said.

“Enough is enough.”

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