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Exxon Mobile was subpoenaed Thursday by California Attorney General Rob Bonta for its role in causing and exacerbating the global plastics pollution crisis. 

According to a statement released by Bonta’s office, fossil fuel and petrochemical industries have aggressively promoted the development of oil-based plastic products and campaigned to minimize the public’s understanding of the harmful consequences of these products for decades. Bonta subpoenaed Exxon Mobil as an identified major source of global plastics pollution and their alleged prominent role in public deception regarding plastics.

Bonta will consider whether petrochemical companies violated the law with what he said is a "historic and ongoing efforts to deceive the public", which may have violated the law in what he dubbed “a half-century campaign of deception". 

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

“Enough is enough. 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. The truth is: The vast majority of plastic cannot be recycled, and the recycling rate has never surpassed 9%,” Bonta said. 

The world produces more than 300 million tons of plastic annually, according to Bonta’s office. As fossil fuel continues to be replaced by clean energy sources, fossil fuel and petrochemical companies have doubled down on plastics production, recently investing an additional $208 billion to expand plastic production worldwide

Plastic production is already a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions. The planned expansion of fossil-fuel-based production runs counter to efforts to address the climate crisis through a transition to clean energy. 

Tens of millions of tons of plastic enter the ocean annually. In California, plastic pollution costs the state an estimated half a billion dollars each year in clean-up and prevention. 

California's wildlife is harmed by plastic pollution, with documentation as early as the 1970s. Contrary to popular belief, plastic breaks down into smaller pieces called microplastics found in drinking water, food, and even the air people breathe.

Bonta’s announcement cited a 2019 study by the World Wide Fund for Nature that found people consume the equivalent of a credit card’s worth of plastic through the water we drink, the food we eat, and the air we breathe. 

A study that found microplastics in human blood and living lung tissues for the first time. Over the course of a lifetime, the average person will unknowingly consume more than 40 pounds of plastic. 

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, Bonta's investigation is “a crucial step”, but the production of plastic would not result in a healthy planet. 

"We have to stop producing plastic junk,” the group said in a statement.

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