Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

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)

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

Julia Conley

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 350.org 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.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Historic Offshore Wind Lease Sale in California Gets Over $750 Million in Winning Bids

"If we build on today's forward momentum, the United States can dramatically reduce its global warming emissions and become a global leader in renewable energy technologies like deep-water offshore wind."

Brett Wilkins ·


Solidarity Fund Up and Running for Designer Behind Iconic Bernie Sanders Posters

Tyler Evans "has dedicated his life to the progressive movement," says the GoFundMe created for the hospitalized designer. "Now it's our time to have Tyler's back when he and his family need it most."

Jessica Corbett ·


Journalism Defenders Push for Passage of 'Game-Changing' PRESS Act

"The PRESS Act is the most important free press legislation in modern times because it would finally stop the government from spying on journalists and threatening them with arrest for doing their jobs," explained one advocate.

Brett Wilkins ·


New York Times Union Workers Planning Dec. 8 Walkout, Rally Over Pay

"Our collective action is working: Management backed off its attempt to kill our pension and agreed to expand fertility benefits," the union said of ongoing talks. "But management still barely budged on some of our most important priorities."

Jessica Corbett ·


Dems Back Blue Dog Spanberger for Swing District Post Over Progressive Cartwright

The corporate Democrat's path to victory was "pretty simple," said one progressive. "Matt Cartwright supports Medicare for All and Spanberger is a former CIA agent who spends all her time punching left."

Julia Conley ·

Common Dreams Logo