The House Oversight Committee has broadened its investigation into the role of the oil and gas industry in spreading misinformation about the role of fossil fuels in global warming, calling on senior executives from Exxon Mobil, Chevron, BP and Royal Dutch Shell, along with lobby groups American Petroleum Institute and the United States Chamber of Commerce, to testify before Congress next month.
In letters sent to industry leaders on Thursday morning, the committee also requested information, including internal climate policy documents and emails dating back to 2015, regarding efforts by companies and groups to undermine climate policy. .
“We are deeply concerned that the fossil fuel industry has reaped huge profits for decades while contributing to climate change that is devastating American communities, costing taxpayers billions of dollars and ravaging the natural world,” reads -on in the letter to Darren Woods, the head of Exxon. executive.
“We are also concerned that to protect these profits, the industry has conducted a coordinated effort to spread disinformation in order to mislead the public and prevent crucial action to combat climate change,” said the letter.
The letters were sent to businesses and groups Thursday morning, according to the committee. Carolyn B. Maloney, Democrat of New York and chair of the committee, said she “intends to hold the fossil fuel industry to account for its pivotal role in causing and exacerbating this global emergency. “.
API spokeswoman Bethany Aronhalt said the group “welcomes the opportunity to testify” and its priorities are to put a price on carbon, to regulate the powerful greenhouse gas methane. greenhouse released in the production of oil and gas, and to “reliably produce American energy.”
BP said it was advocating for similar policies, as well as the Paris climate accord. (Achieving the goals of this deal would require the world to immediately stop approving new oil and gas deposits, the world’s leading energy agency said, a step that no major fossil fuel company does. ‘adopted.)
Matt Letourneau, spokesman for the US Chamber of Commerce, said the House committee leadership had “a fundamental misunderstanding” of the House’s positions on climate change. “We have worked hard with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to embrace climate solutions,” he said.
Other recipients of the letters did not immediately respond to requests for comment early Thursday.
The investigation – modeled after the tobacco hearings of the 1990s, which paved the way for much stricter nicotine regulations – sets up a showdown between progressive Democrats and an industry that is the subject of a increasing surveillance. A wave of lawsuits by cities and states across the country have accused oil and gas companies of engaging in multi-million dollar campaigns for decades to downplay warnings from their own scientists about the effects of the drug. burning of fossil fuels on the climate.
The committee initially focused on Exxon after a senior lobbyist for the oil giant was caught in a secret video recording, released to the public in July, claiming the energy giant had fought climate science through ” ghost groups “and had targeted influential senators in an effort. weaken President Biden’s climate agenda. Several of those senators said the lobbyist either exaggerated their relationship or had no relationship with him.
Representative Ro Khanna, a Democrat from California who chairs the environment subcommittee, said continued lobbying on the Hill by the oil and gas industry made the hearings “urgent”.
Industry lobbyists have sought to influence climate provisions in two key pieces of legislation, the $ 3.5 trillion budget bill and the $ 1,000 billion infrastructure bill. And after lobbying from groups including the US Chamber of Commerce, the House Ways and Means Committee this week unveiled a tax overhaul that protects fossil fuel subsidies, pushing back calls from President Biden to get rid of the incentives. , which amount to tens of billions of dollars. dollars per year.
“Part of the timing is making sure they know they are under a magnifying glass when it comes to any engagement and interference with the Congress and Senate climate agenda,” Mr. Khanna.
In a sign of divisions within the Democratic Party over the Exxon revelations, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, New York Democrat and other member of the House Oversight Committee, wrote on Twitter September 2nd that West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin “has weekly meetings with Exxon and is one of the many senators who give their pens to lobbyists to draft so-called ‘bipartisan’ fossil fuel bills.”
Asked Sunday on the TV show “State of the Union” if he meets Exxon every week, Senator Manchin replied: “Absolutely not.
Senator Manchin did not respond to a request for comment early Thursday. A spokesperson previously said that “Senator Manchin and those who work for him have always had an open door policy.”
The letters from the oversight committee give fossil fuel executives a week to say whether they intend to appear before the panel. Depending on the response from recipients, the committee said it may take additional measures, including issuing subpoenas.