Big Oil Investigation Sent to Justice Department by Dems

Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Shell, BP, American Petroleum Institute, US Chamber of Commerce Accused of Deception
Pumpjacks extracting oil
(David McNew/Getty Images)

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Democrats are asking the Department of Justice to investigate major oil companies and their trade groups following a congressional probe that concluded with allegations that Big Oil spent decades deceiving the public about the effects of climate change.

The three-year investigation, started by Democrats on the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability, accused Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp., Shell Plc, BP Plc, the American Petroleum Institute and U.S. Chamber of Commerce of engaging in a public relations “campaign of deception and doublespeak” while internally acknowledging that fossil fuels caused climate change since the 1960s.

“We believe that there is adequate evidence that fossil fuel industry companies and trade associations may have violated one or more federal statutes and that, accordingly, further investigation is warranted,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) wrote in a May 22 letter to the Justice Department.

A 65-page report was released by the two committees in April along with hundreds of pages of subpoenaed corporate documents. It accused the oil companies of a range of misdeeds, including offering public support for the Paris climate agreement while internally acknowledging their business models were at odds with such a scenario. It also said the companies erroneously touted natural gas as a bridge fuel to a cleaner future while ignoring its significant climate impacts; and it said the industry poured money into universities around the world to win support for the idea of fossil fuels being part of an energy transition.

Vehicles pass oil refinery

Vehicles pass an oil refinery in Wilmington, Calif. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

“Our investigation into the fossil fuel industry calls to mind the historic congressional investigation into deceptive practices of the tobacco industry and its trade associations, which led to investigations and litigation by several state attorneys general and the Department of Justice,” Whitehouse, who leads the Senate Budget Committee, and Raskin, the top Democrat on the House oversight committee, said in their letter.

The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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