As part of its ongoing investigation into fossil fuel industry climate disinformation, the United States House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform today released a new report, which reveals new documents and provides novel analysis of oil and gas companies’ deliberate climate deception.
“New evidence released today further confirms what we know to be true—the companies and trade associations under investigation have followed a well-established playbook that includes greenwashing with misleading or outright false claims about their climate-related actions. Such tactics aim to undermine the urgent need to sharply reduce heat-trapping emissions and to stall and obstruct oversight and accountability,” said Kathy Mulvey, the accountability campaign director at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).
“This investigation is a critical step forward in holding Big Oil accountable for its decades of deception and harm. With clear evidence in hand, the path toward justice for communities harmed by oil and gas company misconduct is within reach.”
The committee said that many of the companies are increasing their investment in fossil fuels and taking actions that are directly at odds with what the science shows is urgently needed to stop devastating impacts of climate change.
“We cannot reach science-based goals without dismantling the powerful influence of the fossil fuel industry,” Mulvey added.
The report adds to a growing body of evidence demonstrating that industry executives have admitted their companies’ climate pledges and professed solutions cannot deliver swift and deep cuts in global warming emissions—and will further delay the transition away from fossil fuels. The report builds on over 200 documents released by the committee last month and previous committee hearings and memos. It also sheds light on the dangerous PR strategies used by fossil fuel companies and industry trade associations to help hide the negative impacts their products have on the environment.
“The PR and advertising industries must stop working with fossil fuel companies to spread climate disinformation,” said Mulvey. “Greenwashing and deception tactics have enabled Big Oil to mislead people and policymakers, emit deadly levels of carbon pollution, and prioritize private gain over public interest.”
While this investigation is not expected to continue under Republican House leadership, the committee’s work to date demonstrates that Big Oil’s deliberate climate deception is intentional and ongoing. U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna, who is a member of the committee and has played a leading role in the investigation, said the millions of documents acquired by the committee will be handed over to those with more resources who can act on the information.
“This is only the beginning—the reports and internal documents released today underscore the importance of continued scrutiny of fossil fuel industry malfeasance,” said Mulvey. “Congress, the Biden administration, public prosecutors, and investors all have a role to play.”
Other members of Congress are also taking notice of the fossil fuel industry’s climate disinformation campaign—in a letter to President Biden, Jeff Merkley and seven other senators urged the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the fossil fuel industry for its decades of deception and to consider bringing a civil suit against the industry.
The committee’s findings and the evidence released pursuant to its investigation are highly relevant to litigation that seeks to hold the fossil fuel industry accountable for climate damages and deception. For communities across the United States and its territories, new evidence from the report could support climate accountability lawsuits challenging BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell, and the American Petroleum Institute. Last month, 16 Puerto Rico municipalities filed the latest climate accountability lawsuit—and the first against the fossil fuel industry under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.
“This new batch of compromising evidence will help communities seeking justice through the courts and ensure that fossil fuel companies pay for the outsize role they have played in climate change and the suffering of communities,” said Dr. Delta Merner, a lead scientist at the Science Hub for Climate Litigation at UCS. “As the tobacco control movement has demonstrated, litigation is a powerful tool that can and should be used to hold bad actors accountable and protect people and the planet over profit.”