Press Release

Protecting Californians with SB 1497- Assessing the Cost of Climate Damages by State’s Largest Polluters

Published, peer-reviewed research of polluters’ self-reported data shows ~2/3 of human-caused CO2 and methane emissions were caused by the world’s 90 largest fossil fuel emitters.

SACRAMENTO - Senator Caroline Menjivar (D- San Fernando Valley) introduced Senate Bill 1497, Polluters Pay Climate Cost Recovery Act, to establish a program in California’s Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) that will assess fees on the state’s largest fossil fuel polluters to pay their fair share of the damage they have caused California and its climate.

“Fossil fuel industry profits continue to skyrocket, while California’s families and low-income communities are saddled with the financial, health, and environmental consequences of their pollution,” states Senator Menjivar. "In a time when we will be working with a tough budget for the next couple of years, we need polluters to share the burden and pay for the damages their products have caused. The Polluters Pay Climate Cost Recovery Act is not just timely, it is absolutely necessary for protecting our communities against the ravages of the climate crisis.” 

Fossil fuels account for nearly 90% of all CO2 emissions and more than 75% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The 2021-22 budget included $9.3B for climate-related responses, and California faces billions in climate crisis related costs in the years ahead. A comprehensive study can quantify the staggering burden fossil fuel polluters have imposed on taxpayers, and ensure that they pay to address it. 

The fossil fuel industry has long known that the pollution they produce harms Californians. They also know that the costs of that damage will be borne by taxpayers. It should not be taxpayers who foot the bill while industry reaps windfall profits. SB 1497 is an essential must-pass bill!” - Assemblymember Laura Friedman, Coauthor SB 1497

“Es evidente que las disparidades de salud, como las altas tasas de asma en mi comunidad, provienen de políticas injustas y la normalización de las operaciones de productores de combustibles fósiles. El llamado del Senadora para SB 1497 busca invertir en comunidades ignoradas como la nuestra, siendo crucial para mitigar el daño climático, aumentar la conciencia sobre los daños causados por los contaminantes de combustibles fósiles, y avanzar en la lucha por la justicia ambiental y social.” - Teodora Reyes, Constituyente del Distrito 20° del Senado

Translation: "It is clear that health disparities, such as high asthma rates in my community, stem from unfair policies and the normalization of fossil fuel producer operations. The Senator's call for SB 1497 seeks to invest in overlooked communities like ours, crucial to mitigating climate damage, raising awareness about the harms caused by fossil fuel pollutants, and advancing the fight for environmental and social justice." - Teodora Reyes, Senate District 20 Constituent 

“This bill makes polluters foot the bill so Californians don’t get crushed by the costs of climate disasters,” said Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute. “Fossil fuel companies have reaped massive profits for decades while Californians face intensified flooding, damaging wildfires and sea level rise costing hundreds of billions of dollars. It’s only right that the polluters lining their pockets pay for the disasters they cause.”

“As California plans for a future beyond oil and gas, we need fossil fuel executives to pay for the destruction of our climate and health. This bill keeps polluters accountable while ensuring that those funds prioritize frontline residents who are hit first and worst by the climate crisis." - Connie Cho, Just Transition Policy Strategist at Asian Pacific Environmental Network

“We’re grateful for Senator Menjivar’s leadership and look forward to working toward the success of this bill. It's time for bold action to protect our communities – especially those bearing the brunt of this crisis – and build a sustainable future for generations to come." - Melissa Romero, Deputy Legislative Director, California Environmental Voters.

SB 1497 will:

  • Assess an initial fee on responsible parties to pay for the cost study and administrative costs of the program.
  • Define responsible parties as entities who did business in the state and emitted more than one billion metric tons CO2-equivalent during the covered time period of 2000 to 2020, via the extraction, production, and sale of fossil fuels. 
  • Require the completion of the first comprehensive statewide cost study to establish the quantifiable costs of climate damages to the state, led by California’s Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA).
  • Direct CalEPA to oversee the program, assess and collect a fair and equitable fee from responsible parties to be paid into the Polluters Pay Climate Fund, consider and allocate expenditures from the fund to address climate damage, and consider and allocate funds to projects implementing state climate policy.

Scientific, peer-reviewed analysis of polluters’ own self-reported data would be used to identify responsible parties according to their emissions of CO2 and methane into the atmosphere from production, refining, and distribution of fossil fuels. Researchers have documented the greenhouse gasses released into the atmosphere by specific fossil fuel companies over the past decades, making it possible to require compensation from companies commensurate with their past emissions during a given time period.

SB 1497 is distinct from, and complementary to, litigation to hold polluters accountable for violations of statutory or common law. It does not preempt or impede ongoing or future litigation.

Similar bills have been introduced in Congress, New York, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Vermont. With SB 1497, California has the opportunity to be the environmental justice leader as the first state to pass this urgent legislation.

Senator Menjivar, along with the coauthors, cosponsor, and supporters of SB 1497 will hold a press conference on the Capitol West Steps on Wednesday, April 17, at 8:30 AM. Immediately following, SB 1497 will be heard by the Environmental Quality Committee at 1021 O Street, Sacramento.