By Ella Nilsen | CNN
The House Oversight and Reform Committee announced Thursday that it is launching an investigation into the fossil fuel industry’s disinformation about the climate crisis. The committee invited the heads of six oil companies and major lobby groups to testify before the committee next month.
The announcement comes after reports that the fossil fuel industry has participated in campaigns aimed at confusing the cause of the climate crisis or sowing skepticism in science. An undercover video released this summer appears to show an ExxonMobil lobbyist admitting the company has been fighting climate policy and the science behind it.
House Oversight President Carolyn Maloney of New York and Chairman of the Environmental Subcommittee Ro Khanna of California sent letters to senior executives at ExxonMobil, BP America, Chevron Corporation, Shell Oil Company, from the American Petroleum Institute and the United States Chamber of Commerce.
Lawmakers are planning a high-profile hearing on Oct. 28 to try to get oil company CEOs to admit they are spreading disinformation about climate change, Khanna told CNN.
The investigation has been going on for two months already, Khanna said, and ExxonMobil has so far complied with the committee by producing “documents of great concern.”
Representatives from the six companies and lobby groups told CNN they received the letter.
Josh Hicks, spokesperson for BP, told CNN that “the company’s ambition is to reach net zero by 2050 or sooner and help the world get there. We actively advocate for policies such as carbon pricing and methane regulation that will support the energy transition, the Paris climate agreement and a net zero world. “
“Shell strongly supports the Paris Agreement and the need for society to move to a lower carbon future, while extending the economic and social benefits of access to energy to all,” said Curtis Smith, Shell spokesperson.
In letters to industry leaders, the committee called on companies and organizations to produce related documents dating back to 2015 by September 30, specifically detailing any efforts to undermine climate science and policy.
“They need to have answers to the climate misinformation that still plagues their businesses – are they giving money to think tanks to try to influence studies?” Khanna told CNN. “Finally, they have to make a commitment to stop all of this.”
In a letter to ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods, lawmakers wrote that they were deeply concerned that the fossil fuel industry has “reaped huge profits for decades while contributing to devastating climate change American communities, costs taxpayers billions of dollars and wreaks havoc on the natural world. “
“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.
Khanna told CNN the hearing will line up with Congress’ schedule to pass massive climate and clean energy investments as part of President Joe Biden’s budget bill. It also comes days before the start of the United Nations climate conference in Glasgow, where world leaders will meet to discuss targets for reducing fossil fuel emissions.
He said the purpose of the hearing was not to try to “embarrass” the fossil fuel leaders, but to get them to admit the disinformation and commit to stopping it in the future.
“It will help our climate agenda if the fossil fuel industry and lobbyists know they are under a magnifying glass,” Khanna said. “This is to try to stop climate misinformation so that we can pass legislation in the House and Senate to address the climate crisis.”