Now Calif. Is Investigating Exxon’s Global Warming Stance

REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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California’s attorney general is investigating if Exxon Mobil lied to shareholders about the risks global warming could pose to its business model. This move is inspired by a series of articles written by reporters backed by wealthy liberal foundations.

A source close to the matter told The Los Angeles Times Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris launched her investigation into Exxon shortly after a series of articles alleged the company for decades had advanced knowledge its activities were contributing to global warming, but funded groups opposed to federal regulations on greenhouse gas emissions.

Columbia University’s Energy and Environmental Reporting Fellowship published a series of articles in The LA times making such claims based on documents obtained by reporters. The liberal news site InsideClimate News also published a series on Exxon’s alleged climate misdeeds.

Harris is the second attorney general (AG) to launch an investigation into Exxon’s shareholder disclosures. Earlier this year, New York AG Eric Schneiderman launched a probe into Exxon’s shareholder disclosures on global warming. The New York investigation was also prompted by reports from Columbia and InsideClimate News.

Democratic politicians and environmentalists have been calling for the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate Exxon for misleading the public on global warming based on the reporting by Columbia and InsideClimate News.

The anti-Exxon reports were put out by reporters receiving financial backing from a major liberal foundation that has backed anti-fossil fuel campaigns. One such backer is the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF).

RBF gives money to both Columbia and InsideClimate News. It is listed in a major report released by Senate Republicans last year on the “Billionaire’s Club” — a group of wealthy foundations that use money and influence to oppose fossil fuels and push global-warming policies.

RBF has backed campaigns to block oil and natural gas projects, and funded environmentalists who are trying to get colleges and universities to divest their endowments from coal, gas and oil investments.

Inside Philanthropy, a foundation watchdog, said RBF was instrumental in funding anti-Keystone XL oil pipeline campaigns. Inside Philanthropy said “RBF is not afraid of a fight, and it has been a supporter lately of efforts to block the Keystone XL pipeline.”

“[I]t gave $50,000 to the League of Conservation Voters in 2013 to educate voters on the issues around Keystone and has addressed the broader threat posed by tar sands oil through a half-million-dollar grant to the Sierra Club Foundation,” the group also noted. “In the past few years, RBF also has been a major funder of — a group at the forefront of the Keystone fight and other activist efforts to raise awareness about climate change.”

Columbia and InsideClimate reporters claim Exxon was incorporating climate science predicting man-made warming into its business practices for decades, all while funding activist groups opposed to federal regulations on greenhouse gas emissions. Exxon’s allegedly secretive science has been fuel for environmentalists looking to find a villain in the global warming debate.

California and New York AGs are going after Exxon’x financial disclosures because federal regulations require “companies disclose the risks of climate change to their business operations but that the agency has taken almost no action to enforce it,” according to The LA Times.

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