Energy

Elizabeth Warren Claims GOP ‘Rigging The System’ In Favor Of Exxon

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren said Wednesday Republicans pushing against ExxonMobil investigations are an example in “how big corporations rig the system.”

The Massachusetts liberal gave an aggressive defense of the now months-long investigation into Exxon’s internal research on climate change, in an editorial with The Washington Post.

Warren, who co-wrote the piece with Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, lambasted the GOP for defending the oil company, as well as the global warming skeptics supposedly aligned with Exxon.

“Those investigations,” Warren and Whitehouse write, “may be making ExxonMobil executives nervous, and their Republican friends in Congress are riding to the rescue.”

Their comments were in reference to Texas Rep. Lamar Smith’s decision in July to issue subpoenas to Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, and eight environmental groups focusing on nonprofit groups for supposedly hiding information related to global warming.

Warren said the investigations against the company and other organizations are above board and one of the obligations attorneys general are bound to fulfill. They have so far not complied with Smith’s subpoenas; Warren and Whitehouse wrote, “We say, good for them.”

One of the think tanks being targeted, Competitive Enterprise Institute, managed to obtain emails in December, one month after the investigations began. They showed Whitehouse was in direct communication with a group of scientists requesting the Obama administration and the Department of Justice prosecute global warming skeptics.

The fact that Smith has received campaign contributions from the oil industry during his career gives credence to criticisms that big oil companies are rigging the system, Warren and Whitehouse write. “Now he (Smith) is using his committee to harass the investigators and bully those who dare bring facts of possible corporate malfeasance to their attention.”

They used two reports in an effort to prop up their arguments, including a report in 2007 called “Smoke, Mirrors & Hot Air: How ExxonMobil Uses Big Tobacco’s Tactics to Manufacture Uncertainty on Climate Science.”

The report documents how the oil industry, Warren and Whitehouse wrote, used front “organizations and scientists to put out junk science contradicting what peer-reviewed scientists, and even the industry’s own experts, were saying about how its products affected the environment.” The report also attempts to tie Exxon’s actions in with those of the tobacco industry, which used front groups to hype the safety of cigarettes.

The two lawmakers made the same connections earlier this year, writing in a letter in May that Republican efforts to stymie the Exxon investigation “reprises the tobacco lawsuit’s own early history of efforts from Congress to discourage or interfere with that lawsuit in order to protect the tobacco industry.”

Lawyers affiliated with energy producers, however, dismissed such claims in June as mere “futile efforts” by a fledgling anti-oil movement to uproot several decades of case law. In order to hold defendants liable, Kevin Ewing, an attorney with the Houston law firm Bracewell, told reporters, their actions would need some direct link to pain inflicted on the plaintiffs in a case.

“Tobacco was shown to cause specific harm to specific individuals,” he added. “Not so with climate change, where we cannot yet discern the factual connection between a company’s conduct and individual harm, even though we can observe the global effects of climate change at large.”

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