House Oversight Committee Investigates Fossil Fuel Industry Climate Disinformation Campaign

Posted by Brad Johnson Mon, 20 Sep 2021 15:20:00 GMT

On Thursday, September 16, the House oversight committee sent letters to U.S. oil executives and to industry trade groups requesting “documents on the reported role of the fossil fuel industry in a long-running, industry-wide campaign to spread disinformation about the role of fossil fuels in causing global warming.” The committee also announced a hearing set for October 28, 2021 in which the executives were requested to testify.

Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), Chairwoman of the Oversight and Reform Committee, and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Environment, sent the letters to the top executives at ExxonMobil Corporation, BP America Inc., Chevron Corporation, Shell Oil Company, American Petroleum Institute, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“We are deeply concerned that the fossil fuel industry has reaped massive profits for decades while contributing to climate change that is devastating American communities, costing taxpayers billions of dollars, and ravaging the natural world,” the chairs wrote. “We are also concerned that to protect those profits, the industry has reportedly led a coordinated effort to spread disinformation to mislead the public and prevent crucial action to address climate change.”

The four companies involved reported nearly $2 trillion in profits between 1990 and 2019. They and the trade groups are now the defendants in a growing number of civil lawsuits from individuals and localities suffering the harms of fossil-fueled climate pollution.

In 2019, Rep. Khanna oversaw a hearing examining the oil industry’s efforts to suppress the truth about climate change.

In 2015, InsideClimateNews and others broke the story of how ExxonMobil led the industry in waging a climate disinformation campaign with full knowledge of the dangers of fossil fuels. Following those reports, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) spoke on the Senate floor calling for a RICO investigation of ExxonMobil’s history of deliberate climate deception. Reps. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Mark DeSaulnier (D-Calif.) called for the Department of Justice to investigate the legality of ExxonMobil’s “sustained deception campaign disputing climate science.”

From the committee’s press release:
Public reporting indicates that these companies and their allies in the fossil fuel industry have worked to prevent serious action on global warming by generating doubt about the documented dangers of fossil fuels and misrepresenting the scale of their efforts to develop alternative energy technologies—similar tactics deployed by the tobacco industry to resist regulation while selling products that kill hundreds of thousands of Americans.

These strategies of obfuscation and distraction span decades and still continue today. Between 2015 and 2018, the five largest publicly traded oil and gas companies reportedly spent $1 billion to promote climate disinformation through “branding and lobbying.”

Fossil fuel companies increasingly outsource lobbying to trade groups, obscuring their own roles in disinformation efforts. Recently, an ExxonMobil lobbyist was caught on video discussing the tactics employed by ExxonMobil to obstruct climate change legislation, including using API and other industry groups as the “whipping boy” to advocate for policy positions that ExxonMobil did not want to be associated with publicly.

The committee requested that the recipients produce documents and communications by September 30, 2021, “related to their organizations’ role in supporting disinformation and misleading the public to prevent action on the climate crisis.”

  • The letter to ExxonMobil Corporation CEO Darren Woods
  • The letter to BP America Inc. CEO David Lawler
  • The letter to Chevron Corporation CEO Michael K. Wirth
  • The letter to Shell Oil Company President Gretchen Watkins
  • The letter to the American Petroleum Institute President Mike Sommers
  • The letter to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Suzanne Clark

House Working To Write and Pass the $3.5 Trillion Build Back Better Act Reconciliation Package

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 07 Sep 2021 19:31:00 GMT

The House of Representatives has begun a whirlwind effort to pass the $3.5 trillion “human infrastructure” reconciliation bill known as the Build Back Better Act this month. Practically every committee in the House has some component of the bill, known formally as S. Con. Res. 14, the Concurrent Resolution on the Budget for Fiscal Year 2022, under its jurisdiction.

The House Committee on Natural Resources, chaired by Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-N.Mex.), was the first to handle its section, with a full-day markup last week. The committee will meet again this Thursday to vote on a few Republican amendments before final consideration of its bill.

The largest elements of the bill, dealing with health care, child care, and retirement, are being handled by the House Committee on Ways and Means, chaired by corporate ally Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.). They have two days of markup planned for this Thursday and Friday.

The Science Committee, Education and Labor Committee, and Small Business Committee also are conducting their markups on Thursday.

The Agriculture Committee is holding its markup on Friday.

The committee-approved Natural Resources bill includes:
  • $3 billion to support the Civilian Climate Corps through the Department of the Interior
  • $1 billion for tribal climate resilience and adaptation
  • $900 million for national wildfire management
  • $500 million for a unique Tribal Civilian Climate Corps
  • $225 million for climate resilience and restoration
  • $100 million for mitigating climate-induced weather events
  • $100 million for tribal wildfire management
  • $2.7 billion for overdue Indian water rights settlements
  • $2.5 billion to clean up abandoned hardrock mines and redevelop them for productive use
  • $2 billion for health facility construction, maintenance, and improvement in Indian Country
  • $993 million for hospitals and health infrastructure in U.S. territories
  • $500 million for tribal housing improvements

The proposed $45.4 billion Science Committee bill includes:

Department of Energy ($20.6 billion)
  • $5 billion for regional innovation initiatives
  • $10.4 billion for the Department of Energy Office of Science laboratories, including $1.3 billion for the ITER fusion project
  • $349 million for the Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy for NREL projects including the new EMAPS program and ARIES grid simulation
  • $408 million for the Department of Energy Office of Nuclear Energy
  • $20 million for the Department of Energy Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management
  • $1.08 billion in general funds for Department of Energy National Laboratories, including
    • $377 million for Office of Science
    • $210 million for Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
    • $40 million for Office of Nuclear Energy
    • $190 million for Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management
    • $102 million for the Office of Environmental Management
  • $2 billion for fusion research and development
  • $1.1 billion for Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy demonstration projects, including wind, solar, geothermal, hydropower, vehicles, bioenergy, and building technologies
  • $70 million for a new Clean Energy Manufacturing Innovation Institute
  • $52.5 million for university nuclear reactor research
  • $10 million for demonstration projects on reducing the environmental impacts of fracking wastewater
  • $20 million for the Office of Economic Impact and Diversity
  • $50 million for the Office of the Inspector General
Environmental Protection Agency
  • $264 million to conduct environmental research and development activities related to climate change, including environmental justice
FEMA
  • $798 million for Assistance to Firefighters Grants
NASA ($4.4 billion)
  • $4 billion for infrastructure and maintenance
  • $388 million for climate change research and development
NIST ($4.2 billion)
  • $1.2 billion for scientific and technical research, including resilience to natural hazards including wildfires, and greenhouse gas and other climate-related measurement
  • $2 billion for American manufacturing support
  • $1 billion for infrastructure and maintenance
NOAA ($4.2 billion)
  • $1.2 billion for weather, ocean, and climate research and forecasting
  • $265 million to develop and distribute actionable climate information for communities in an equitable manner
  • $500 million to recruit, educate, and train a “climate-ready” workforce
  • $70 million for high-performance computing
  • $224 million for phased-array radar research and development
  • $1 billion for hurricane hunter aircraft and radar systems
  • $12 million for drone missions
  • $743 million for deferred maintenance
  • $173 million for space weather
National Science Foundation ($10.95 billion)
  • $3.4 billion for infrastructure, including Antarctic bases – $300 million for minority-serving institutions
  • $7.5 billion for research grants, including at least $400 million for climate change research and $700 million for minority-serving institutions
  • $50 million for Office of the Inspector General
The Small Business Committee bill includes, among many other programs:
  • $2.1 billion to back upwards of $4.2 billion in small-business loans to purchase renewable energy equipment, including solar panels, wind turbines, and battery storage
The Education & Labor Committee bill includes:
  • roughly $450 billion in lowering the cost of child care and securing universal pre-K for three- and four-year-olds
  • $111 billion to lower the cost of higher education
  • $82 billion in America’s public school infrastructure, for safe, healthy, energy efficient, and environmentally resilient public school facilities
  • nearly $80 billion in workforce development programs
  • nearly $35 billion in child nutrition programs