Bernie Sanders says Big Oil must pay for 'extraordinary damage it has caused'

Bernie Sanders says Big Oil must pay for 'extraordinary damage it has caused'
Bernie Sanders Image via Yasamin Jafari Tehrani, Shutterstock

Sen. Bernie Sanders on Thursday reiterated his call for the Biden Justice Department to take legal action against the fossil fuel industry, arguing that oil companies have violated a range of federal laws in their campaigns to mislead the public about climate change.

"Like the tobacco industry before them, the fossil fuel companies' actions represent a clear violation of federal racketeering laws, truth in advertising laws, consumer protection laws, and potentially other laws," Sanders (I-Vt.) wrote in an op-ed for MSNBC. "The Justice Department must hold them accountable."

Earlier this week, Sanders and three of his progressive Senate colleagues sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland urging him to follow in the footsteps of the more than 40 U.S. cities and states that have sued the fossil fuel industry in recent years over its role in the climate crisis and its decadeslong misinformation effort, which is still ongoing.

In his op-ed on Thursday, Sanders wrote that "the Justice Department must join the fight and work with partners at the Federal Trade Commission and other law enforcement agencies to file suits against all those who participated in the fossil fuel industry's conspiracy of lies and deception."

"The fossil fuel industry must begin to pay for the extraordinary damage it has caused and continues to cause every day," Sanders added. "Climate change is an existential threat to every person on Earth. At every level, in every country, we must work together to save the planet for our kids and future generations. And those most responsible for this global crisis must finally be held accountable."

Sanders' push for DOJ action comes amid extreme weather that has wreaked havoc across the globe.

According to an analysis released Wednesday by Climate Central, 81% of Earth's population—more than 6.5 billion people—was exposed last month to at least one day of heat that was made at least three times more likely by the fossil fuel-driven climate emergency.

"Across the entire planet, the average person was exposed to 11 days in which carbon pollution made the local temperature at least three times more likely," said Andrew Pershing, Climate Central's vice president for science. "Virtually no place on Earth escaped the influence of climate change last month."

Meanwhile, oil and gas giants have continued raking in massive profits, rewarding shareholders, and walking back pledges to curb their planet-warming emissions.

The Center for Climate Integrity applauded Sanders and his Senate allies for putting pressure on the Justice Department to finally bring an end to fossil fuel industry impunity.

"As this week made clear, DOJ has the power and responsibility to prosecute fraud and lies," the group wrote. "Big Oil's climate lies have caused catastrophic harm. We agree with Sen. Sanders and other Congress members: it's time for DOJ to hold Big Oil accountable."

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