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"For decades, ExxonMobil has contributed to national confusion, setting up fake debates on science and causing national paralysis in the face of a serious crisis." (Photo: stopfundingfossils/flickr/cc)

Heat Building on Exxon as Multiple Probes Explore Climate Cover-Up

'We need to get to the bottom of this,' says Moms Clean Air Force upon delivery of 360,000 petitions to Justice Department

Deirdre Fulton

As the world gets hotter, climate activists are turning up the heat on ExxonMobil, the big oil giant they say bears responsibility not only for the ever-worsening climate crisis, but for perpetuating the "most consequential lie in human history."

Amid a growing push for the corporation to be held accountable for its climate crimes, a coalition of activists was in Washington, D.C. on Thursday to deliver 360,000 petitions demanding a Department of Justice probe into what ExxonMobil knew about global warming—and how far it went to cover up its role in the phenomenon. This appeal comes on top of calls for a Congressional inquiry and a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigation.

"Over the course of nearly forty years, the company has contributed millions of dollars to think-tanks and politicians that have done their best to spread doubt and misinformation—first on the existence of climate change, then the extent of the problem, and now its cause," reads the petition, circulated by groups including 350.org, CREDO, and Climate Parents. "If Exxon intentionally misled the public about climate change and fossil fuels, then they should be held accountable."

Dominique Browning, senior director of Moms Clean Air Force, said: "For decades, ExxonMobil has contributed to national confusion, setting up fake debates on science and causing national paralysis in the face of a serious crisis. The result? Misinformed citizens, misinformed politicians, misinformed editors and reporters—unable to properly steer our democracy. We are in the race of our lives, and we should all be very angry, and very concerned. We need to get to the bottom of this."

The petition delivery comes on the heels of a high-profile open letter calling on Attorney General Loretta Lynch to follow the "remarkable roadmap to this corporation’s potential misconduct," provided by reporting in the LA Times and Inside Climate News. It was that reporting that led 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben to hold a one-man civil disobedience action that drew public attention to the scandal. A similar one-man action was held Wednesday night.

On a press call Thursday, McKibben pointed to new NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) data showing that last month was the hottest October on record. In turn, he said, it's "time to turn up the heat on Exxon."

And it is but one prong in an attack that's coming from multiple sides—and has multiple targets. Reps. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.) are reportedly circulating a letter among their colleagues seeking to know if other oil, gas, or coal companies have a similar history.

Meanwhile, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is currently looking into the scandal, and just this week the Center for Media and Democracy submitted evidence showing how ExxonMobil specifically promoted climate change denial through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

What's more, on Thursday's press call, Rep. Lieu highlighted a separate effort asking the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to investigate Exxon Mobil's financial disclosures.

"Securities laws are very clear...corporations can lie, but they cannot lie on their security filings," he said.

"At the very least," Lieu added, by failing to disclose climate risks in reports to financial regulators and investors, "ExxonMobil has violated U.S. security laws for years."


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