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Trump's SEC Closes Probe of Exxon's Knowledge of Climate Crisis in Latest 'Gift for the Fossil Fuel Industry'

The investigation ended a day after the president announced he would roll back auto emissions standards

Green groups maintain that Exxon Mobil knew for decades about the effects of its oil and gas development on the climate, and lied to the public and its shareholders about climate crisis. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood said Friday that she would continue her probe into Exxon Mobil's knowledge of the climate crisis following the Security and Exchange Commission's (SEC) decision to drop its own two-year investigation without recommending any action be taken against the oil giant.

"Our investigation remains ongoing," Amy Spitalnick, Underwood's communication director, said in a statement.

Under the Obama administration in 2016, the SEC's Fort Worth, Texas office began investigating whether Exxon Mobil knew that its oil and gas extraction practices could have adverse effects on the Earth's climate, and lied about its knowledge to its investors.

As Inside Climate News tweeted this week, internal documents going back decades have shown that Exxon scientist Roger Cohen told environmental affairs manager Al Natkin in 1982, "Over the past several years a clear scientific consensus has energed regarding the expected climatic effects of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide. The consensus is that a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide from its pre-industrial revolution value would result in an average global temperature rise of [about 3 degrees Celsius]."

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey is also investigating Exxon's knowledge of the climate crisis. In March, a federal judge rejected Exxon's latest attempt to have the case dismissed. The company had sued Healey and Underwood, claiming that its free speech rights were being violated by their subpoena of documents showing Exxon officials knew the risks of contributing to the climate crisis.

"We're gratified that multiple courts have now rejected Exxon's arguments regarding our investigation—fully dismissing Exxon's lawsuit against our office, and ordering Exxon and its accounting firm to produce the documents we subpoenaed," Spitalnick told Bloomberg.

Spitalnick as well as co-founder Bill McKibben both noted that the SEC's decision came a day after President Donald Trump announced he would roll back fuel efficiency standards for automobiles and try to keep states including California from adopting their own anti-pollution rules.

"The Trump administration is full of gifts for the fossil fuel industry—first an end to fuel-efficient cars and a day later a free pass on its funky climate accounting," McKibben told Bloomberg.

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