Late last year, evidence emerged that ExxonMobil not only recognized climate change decades ago, it put those beliefs into action, basing company decisions on the available science. As we discussed at the time, the oil giant nevertheless urged policymakers around the world not to address the intensifying climate crisis that its own scientists and engineers recognized.
Several congressional Democrats concluded there are grounds for a federal criminal investigation, and some state attorneys general launched probes of their own, subpoenaing ExxonMobil for more information in the hopes of determining what the company knew and when.
That isn’t sitting well with the far-right congressional Republicans on the House Science Committee, who want ExxonMobil to be left alone. TPM reported yesterday on the latest developments on Capitol Hill.
Following a months-long standoff between the House Science Committee and state attorneys general conducting an investigation into Exxon over climate change denialism, Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) has called a hearing to affirm his right to subpoena the state officials overseeing criminal investigations.Smith, a noted climate change denier, has made repeated demands that the attorneys general and several environmental groups turn over their communications about Exxon, accusing them of embarking on an “unprecedented effort against those who have questioned the causes, magnitude, or best ways to address climate change.” The attorneys general, as well as the activist groups, have refused to comply with the committee’s requests, setting up a battle over subpoena power.
As political messes go, this one’s pretty straightforward: attorneys general in New York and Massachusetts are targeting ExxonMobil, so House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) is targeting the attorneys general.
Specifically, Smith is subpoenaing them, demanding information about their ongoing investigations, their communications with environmental groups, and their interactions with each other.
Can the House Science Committee do this? Smith says yes, the state attorneys general say no.
And with this in mind, the GOP-led panel will hold a hearing tomorrow focused on Smith’s legal power to subpoena state offices investigating a company he’d prefer not be bothered.
Why aren’t Democrats on the House Science Committee intervening? Because they don’t have any real say in the matter. TPM’s report added:
The Science Committee was one of several House committees that received new subpoena powers at the beginning of 2015. The chair can issue subpoenas without consulting the committee’s ranking member, and Smith has not shied away from using that power.“The amount of power that he has and that he’s exercising is unprecedented for the Science Committee,” Mark Harkins, a senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Government Affairs Institute and former Democratic staffer on the Science Committee, told TPM.
The Washington Post reported in July that Smith “has issued more subpoenas in less than three years as chairman than the [House Science Committee] had issued in its entire 54 years of existence.”