Democratic lawmakers are set to introduce a resolution condemning fossil fuel companies and pro-fossil fuel groups that “deliberately cast doubt on science in order to protect their financial interests.”
California Rep. Ted Lieu and Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse will introduce resolutions in both chambers of Congress that “urges fossil fuel companies and allied organizations to cooperate with active or future investigations into their climate-change related activities.”
The bill is meant to draw attention to investigations into ExxonMobil’s global warming stance, though the company is never mentioned by name. The bill is also meant to target groups, many of which are conservative think tanks, with alleged ties to Exxon.
At least four state attorneys general have opened investigations into Exxon based on accusations by liberal journalists that the company knew its product caused global warming and funded groups to oppose regulations on greenhouse gas emissions.
Exxon and a libertarian think tank have fought back and managed to defeat two of the four probes, which has effectively left only New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman with an active investigation into the company.
Democrats’ bill “disapproves of activities by certain corporations, trade associations, foundations, and organizations funded by those corporations to deliberately mislead the public and undermine peer-reviewed scientific research about the dangers of their products; and to deliberately cast doubt on science in order to protect their financial interests.”
Neither of these bills are likely to even be voted on, but that’s not really the point. Lieu and Whitehouse have been pushing for state and federal prosecutors to investigate fossil fuel companies for months. Whitehouse even argued the Justice Department should launch a racketeering case against fossil fuel companies casting doubt on the liberal position on global warming.
“A lot of people haven’t seen through the scam that’s being perpetrated,” Whitehouse said in 2015. “So that’s one of the reasons I hope that we get another lawsuit out of the Department of Justice, like the one they brought against the tobacco industry that showed that the whole fraudulent scam was a racketeering enterprise, held them accountable for it.”
Emails uncovered by the Competitive Enterprise Institute — one of the think tanks targeted by liberal attorneys general — showed Whitehouse and one of his staffers were in communication with a group of scientists who asked the White House and DOJ to prosecute global warming skeptics.
Lieu has also been a huge proponent of prosecuting companies he sees as funding skeptics to protect their financial interests. He recently sent a letter to California Attorney General Kamala Harris, urging her to keep investigating Exxon and its allies because freedom of speech “is not designed to protect fraud and deceit.”
“The First Amendment protects freedom of speech, but it does not protect companies from defrauding the American people or improperly disclosing information to their shareholders,” Lieu and others wrote to Harris in June.
Harris is one of the initial four AGs to begin investigating Exxon, though it’s unclear how serious the probe is, since the company has not received a subpoena from her office on this matter. Harris is also running for U.S. Senate, so she may not actually follow through on investigating Exxon.
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