Energy & Environment

Oversight committee chair subpoenas top oil companies

House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) issued subpoenas to four major oil companies and two leading trade groups on Tuesday, making good on a vow she made at a hearing last week.

In a Tuesday memo, Maloney said that Shell, BP, Exxon and Chevron, as well as the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, had failed to voluntarily provide information the committee requested before the hearing last Thursday.

The subpoenas demand the entities produce all materials and internal communications among senior executives and board members relating to climate science, their “role in contributing to climate change” and the impacts it could have on their businesses. It also calls for documents on funding to third-party entities, as well as their respective plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Echoing remarks Maloney made in the hearing, she said the entities — despite extensions — had not complied with most of the requests and had mostly produced irrelevant or publicly available documents.

Specifically, Maloney wrote, neither Exxon nor Chevron have provided requested internal communications between top executives or detailed information on third-party funding. Meanwhile, she wrote, BP America provided only incomplete email correspondence and did not disclose third-party funding information, while Shell did not provide either third-party funding information or board/senior executive materials.

Both API and the Chamber of Commerce, she wrote, failed to provide internal senior executive communications requested by the panel.

In the hearing, the committee’s Democratic majority repeatedly questioned witnesses representing the six groups on the extent to which the companies had allegedly promoted climate misinformation. All six acknowledged the reality of climate change and fossil fuels’ role in it, but none would commit to ending all funding for lobbying against climate action.

“Despite repeated effort by the Committee and staff to obtain the documents necessary for the investigation, the six entities have failed to substantially comply with the Committee’s September 16, 2021, document requests,” Maloney wrote in the memo. “As a result, subpoenas are now necessary.”

In the memo, Maloney wrote that ranking member Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), who voiced his objection to the subpoenas at the hearing, continued his opposition. As a result, Maloney wrote, “it is clear that further consideration of the subpoenas at a Committee meeting would not serve any purpose. For all these reasons, I plan to proceed with issuing these subpoenas.”

Reached for comment, API, Exxon, Shell and BP confirmed receipt of the subpoenas.

An Exxon spokesperson said the company has already been cooperating with the committee and has provided nearly 130,000 pages of documents.

A Shell spokesperson, meanwhile, said the company “appreciate[s] the opportunity to share with the Committee our views on climate and the progress we’re making against our goal to become a [net-zero emissions] energy business.”

And a spokesperson for BP said the company is “carefully reviewing the subpoena and will continue working with the committee.”

Comer, meanwhile, reiterated his objection to the subpoena, saying in a letter to Maloney that the documents already provided are “responsive to your overly broad requests.”

Maloney and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), chair of the committee’s environmental subcommittee, announced the hearing after the summer release of a covert recording of Exxon lobbyist Keith McCoy. In the tape, recorded by a Greenpeace activist, McCoy says the company “[fought] against some of the science” on climate change, and that its endorsement of a carbon tax was a “talking point.”

–Updated at 3:53 p.m.

Tags Big Oil Carolyn Maloney Climate change James Comer Oil companies Ro Khanna

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