The US state of California has sued five of the world’s largest oil companies over billions of dollars in environmental damage and allegations of misleading. California filed a lawsuit Friday against Exxon Mobil, Shell, BP, ConocoPhilips and Chevron, as well as the American Petroleum Institute, an industry association, according to court documents. The state accuses them of “actively spreading misinformation” about the risks associated with the use of fossil fuels.

“For more than 50 years, the oil giants have lied to us and concealed the fact that they have long known how dangerous the fossil fuels they produce are to our planet,” said California Governor Gavin Newsom. California now wants to “hold major polluters accountable.”

Oil and gas company managers have “known for decades that dependence on fossil fuels would lead to these disastrous results,” says the lawsuit filed in San Francisco court.

Nevertheless, they withheld this information from the general public and politicians and “actively spread false information on the topic” for decades, the 135-page lawsuit continues. Because of this “deception,” society was slow to respond to global warming. The “misconduct” of the oil managers led to “enormous costs for people, property and natural resources”.

“By downplaying the scientific consensus on climate change and emphasizing uncertainty, defendants hoped to delay any regulatory action (…),” the oil companies are further accused in the court documents. When asked, the companies initially did not comment on the matter.

With its lawsuit, California seeks to establish a fund to cover the costs of future damage caused in the state as a result of climate change, such as wildfires and floods.