Following Hearing: Big Oil to Get Subpoenas

October 28, 2021

Sample from today’s confrontation between Oil Company chieftains and the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.

Emily Atkin’s quick take below.

Emily Atkin in Heated:

The CEOs of Exxon, Chevron, Shell and BP revealed very little about their company’s past and current efforts to spread climate misinformation and delay climate policy during today’s six-hour hearing before the House Oversight Committee

So, at the very end of the historic hearing, committee chairwoman Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) announced she will issue subpoenas to the oil companies—as well as the American Petroleum Institute and Chamber of Commerce—for internal documents detailing their role in worsening the climate crisis.

The subpoena announcement makes good on a threat Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) issued in July, after a secretly-recorded video showed an Exxon lobbyist admitting the company joins “shadow groups” to stop climate policy. In that video, the now-former lobbyist also bragged that Exxon had successfully lobbied Democratic and Republic Senators to remove climate provisions from the bipartisan infrastructure bill.

The subpoenas announced today will force Big Oil to provide information on companies’ payments to “shadow groups” that promote climate denial, Maloney said, as well as payments to “over 150 public relations companies” that may help the companies spread climate misinformation.

The subpoenas will also seek funding information for Big Oil’s social media advertisements, and “board materials the committee needs to examine corporate strategies on climate change.” HEATED has extensively covered Big Oil’s social media and news advertisements, as well as corporate strategies on climate change. (We published our latest story on this yesterday).

“I have tried very hard to obtain this information voluntarily,” Maloney said. “But the oil companies employ the same tactics they used for decades on climate policy: delay and obstruction.” She said the oil companies missed multiple deadlines for information requested by the committee, only to provide them with thousands of unrelated, publicly-available documents at the last minute.

The committee’s ranking member, Rep. James Comer (R-KY), quickly issued a formal objection to the subpoenas. “The oil and gas executives here today have provided over 100,000 pages of documents,” he said. “We feel that’s an infringement on their First Amendment rights.”

But Maloney said the quantity of documents did not matter, because they were not what the committee had asked for. “We are at code red for climate, and I am committed to doing everything I can to help rescue this planet and help save it for our children,” she said. “We need to get to the bottom of the oil industry’s disinformation campaign, and with these subpoenas, we will.

If successful, the subpoenas could provide useful evidence for some of the dozens of ongoing lawsuits seeking to hold oil companies financially accountable for climate change damages. These lawsuits are similar to those that held Big Tobacco responsible for the health consequences of cigarettes, and financially crippled the industry. 

But if today’s hearing was any indication, Republicans on the committee will fight tooth and nail to stop anything that could represent a threat to Big Oil. So this is likely far from over.

More at the (highly recommended) Heated Newsletter.

One Response to “Following Hearing: Big Oil to Get Subpoenas”

  1. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    At this time of night my smarm tolerance must have gotten low, because the transition from AOC’s question to the unctuous speech of President Sommers of the API made me physically sick: These people have gotten so used to rationalizing despoiling the environment in every other way that it’s a small psychological step to rationalize taking out the whole planet.

    This is not a just world.

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