Following Subpoena Threat, Groups Call for Disclosure of Science Committee’s Oily Exxon Connections
by Rodrigo Estrada Patiño
Groups’ latest response to Chairman Lamar Smith’s demands comes as report reveals Exxon still funds climate denial groups.
The fight to hold Exxon accountable for its role in sowing deception about climate change escalates as 350.org and Greenpeace USA call on members of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology to disclose their connections with ExxonMobil and other fossil fuel industry-funded denial front groups.
This call comes in response to the third in a round of letters sent by Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) to eight NGOs and 17 state attorneys general. This latest letter is the first to imply a subpoena threat. The letters demand full divulgence of communications pertaining to each group’s campaigns advocating for climate action and holding the fossil fuel industry accountable for their role in funding an extensive network of climate denial and misleading the public about climate change.
The first two letters were signed by 13 Republican members of the Committee, though this latest letter was signed solely by Representative Smith. Since 2008, Rep. Smith has received a total of $675,597 from the fossil fuel industry, $19,500 which came directly from ExxonMobil. Since 2006, the Congressman has also received $52,000 from Koch Industries.
Rep. Smith’s acceptance of large donations from Big Oil and Gas provides explanation into his history of baseless attacks against climate science. Last fall, Smith took umbrage toward a NOAA report that disproved the notion that global warming has slowed in the last decade, a hypothesis Smith often promoted. Smith issued a number of subpoenas, sent decrying letters to Obama Administration officials, and proceeded to ratchet up the subpoena campaign demanding NOAA emails that fell under an increasingly long list of search terms.
Rep. Smith has issued more subpoenas in his less than three years as chairman than the Committee has in its entire 54 years of existence. Just this week the Houston Press referred to subpoenas as “Rep. Lamar Smith’s favorite climate change denial tool.”
Earlier this week, 19 Senators took to the floor to bring to light the extensive web of climate denial that ExxonMobil, the Koch brothers, and other industry-funded groups have funded. Also this week, eight Senators, led by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), introduced a resolution condemning fossil fuel companies for misleading the public about the devastating impacts of burning fossil fuels, and urging “fossil fuel companies and allied organizations to cooperate with active or future investigations.”
Currently, state attorneys general are conducting investigations to determine if Exxon committed fraud, the Department of Justice has referred the case to the criminal branch of the FBI, and pressure continues to mount across the country for elected officials and candidates to support investigations into all that Exxon knew.
Exxon’s 2015 “Corporate Citizenship Report” revealed that the corporation is still pouring their resources on sowing doubt and deception to block action on climate. The 2015 report brings the total amount of known Exxon funding of groups undermining climate science and policy to more than $33 million since 1998.
In light of all that Exxon knew about climate science, and the company’s continued funding of climate denial front-groups, 350.org and Greenpeace USA are now demanding full disclosure from Rep. Smith and the Committee on all connections and communications with Exxon and its allies.
May Boeve, 350.org Executive Director said:
“Lamar Smith is clearly taking a page straight from Exxon’s playbook, pouring the Committee’s resources into blocking climate action rather than actually acting on the science. As much effort as Smith has put into attempts to discredit it, global temperatures have continued to rise during last 9 consecutive years, and 2016 is already set to be the hottest year on record. It’s time for full disclosure on how exactly Smith’s deep financial ties are fueling this Committee’s attacks. This ‘Science Committee’ has admitted they have no end goal in mind, but we certainly do: we will keep spreading the word about Exxon’s role in funding an extensive web of climate denial, and keep working to hold Exxon and its allies accountable for their decades of deception and fraud.”
Annie Leonard, Greenpeace USA Executive Director said:
“It’s easy to understand why Americans have little faith in Congress when Representatives shirk their responsibility to advance the best interests of our nation and instead pursue a meaningless witch-hunt to protect ExxonMobil. 350.org and Greenpeace USA have a few questions of our own about Representative Smith’s motives. We would like to know exactly how much money Exxon, other fossil fuel companies, and allied nonprofits and think tanks have given members of the House Science Committee. We would also love Representative Smith to make public all communications between members of the Committee and those same groups. Maybe then the American public will benefit from a better understanding of Representative Smith’s determination to serve as lap dog and personal security guard for a company that may have committed one of the most dangerous acts of fraud in human history.”
NOTES TO THE EDITOR:
The letter issued to 350.org and Greenpace USA on July 6 can be found here. Stable URL: https://science.house.gov/sites/republicans.science.house.gov/files/documents/07.06.16%20SST%20Letter%20to%20Lowell%20%28Greenpeace%20350%29.pdf
The official response submitted on July 13 can be found here. Stable URL: http://350.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/GP-US-350-Letter-Response-to-Committee-07-13-16.pdf
For more information on the #ExxonKnew campaign, visit: exxonknew.org
Lindsay Meiman, 350.org, firstname.lastname@example.org, (347) 460-9082
Rodrigo Estrada, Greenpeace USA, email@example.com, (202) 478-6632