Anti-Oil Activists Are Now Accusing Utilities Of Covering Up Global Warming

Chris White | Energy Reporter

An environmental group with deep ties to the anti-Exxon movement claimed Tuesday that public utility companies have known for decades about the risks of man-made global warming but continued ramping up coal production anyway.

Former President Lyndon Johnson warned public utility Edison Electric Institute as early as 1968 that the burning of fossil fuels could trigger “catastrophic effects,” according to a report from Energy Policy Institute. EPI claims the documents mirror research from InsideClimate News showing that ExxonMobil duped investors about the degree to which carbon emissions affected profits.

Electric Power Research Institute, a research organization funded by the electric utility industry, began studying the issue in the 1970s and produced warnings of rising carbon emission levels, temperatures, and sea levels, according to the EPI. The group argued that EPRI concluded in 1988 that “there is a growing consensus in the community that the greenhouse gas effect is real.”

The electric industry made long-term investments in coal-fired generation and blocked climate regulations despite knowing the threats climate change posed to the world, the group noted.

EEI, which represents electric companies in all 50 states, did not respond to reporters’ request for comment about the EPI’s findings, but noted that electric companies have been reducing carbon emissions for years.

“The electric power industry has reduced carbon emissions by 25 percent below 2005 levels as of the end of 2016,” Jeff Ostermayer, an EEI spokesman, told reporters. The EPRI has not responded to reporters’ questions either.

“EPI has not been directly involved in the Schneiderman’s Exxon investigation, but occasionally we (EPI) do research on ExxonMobil,” David Anderson, the lead author of the EPI study, told The Daily Caller News Foundation about his group’s position on the now meandering Exxon probe.

Anderson worked for the Union of Concerned Scientists and Sierra Club before joining EPI. Both UCS and the Sierra Club are generally supportive of the nearly two-year long Exxon probe and have dealt with Congressional Republicans probes into the group’s connections to the Exxon campaigns.

UCI refused in October of 2016 to comply with a subpoena from Texas Republican Rep. Lamar Smith asking for any communications between the group and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who began investigating the oil company in 2015. Smith believed that the New York Democrat was coordinating with UCI during his investigation.

Smith issued subpoenas in July of 2016 to Schneiderman, his Massachusetts counterpart, Maura Healey, and eight environmental groups, including UCS. The subpoenas focused on nonprofit groups for supposedly hiding information related to global warming.

Anderson and his group make some of the same kind of allegations against Edison Electric Institute as those who are pursuing Exxon.

EPI describes itself as a watchdog against oil companies that malign the green energy industry.

“EPI is a watchdog organization working to expose attacks on renewable energy and counter misinformation by fossil fuel and utility interests,” the page’s mission statement states. The group also claims, “to disrupt fossil fuel-funded misinformation, separate polluters from policymakers, and accelerate the transition to a clean economy.”

The Exxon investigation, meanwhile, has fallen on troubled times. Schneiderman’s probe have meandered from looking at the Texas-based oil company’s climate records to peering at Exxon’s financials.

Exxon has proved Schneiderman with millions of pages of documents, yet the Democrat has had a difficult time finding evidence of illegal activity. “Despite having 2.8 million pages of ExxonMobil’s documents and eighteen months to review them, the Attorney General has found no valid basis for believing misrepresentations have taken place,” the company wrote in a court filing earlier this year.

Company officials even suggested in the court filings that Schneiderman’s recent subpoenas into Exxon’s climate records amount to conspiracy theories drummed up to gain media attention and further the Democrat’s political ambitions. The company speculated that the Democrat’s investigation has deviated from its initial purpose and meandered into mere speculation about Exxon’s business dealings.

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