Congressional Climate Witch Hunt Reaches an Impasse

Lamar Smith, ExxonMobil,, Greenpeace, fossil fuels, climate chance, climate deniers, climate science, congress, Leon Kaye, Union of Concerned Scientists
Lamar Smith has refused to meet with NGOs over his subpoenas demanding emails and documents related to investigations of ExxonMobil


Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chair of the House Science Committee, has used his position to demand emails and documents from state attorneys general and environmental NGOs as a response to their investigation of ExxonMobil. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and the Union of Concerned Scientists are amongst the parties involved. They allege ExxonMobil suppressed climate change science, researched by the company’s own staff scientists over 30 years ago and Rep Smith has requested email logs from the accusers.

NGOs including and Greenpeace have pushed back, claiming that Smith’s subpoenas amount to federal overreach and have an ulterior agenda of interfering with their researchers’ work. In the latest twist of events,’s outside counsel requested a meeting with the Science Committee last month to discuss the subpoena and issues related to climate change science. According to, however, the request to meet Smith and the committee has been denied.

According to attorney Abbe David Lowell, congressional committees, including Science, have required a full committee vote or at least the consent of the ranking member before issuing subpoenas. In Lamar’s investigation, however, this has not been the case. The ranking minority member of the committee, Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), has long been critical of Smith’s tactics, which NGOs describe as a fossil fuel-funded vendetta against environmental organizations.

Smith’s refusal to engage in any discussion with the 17 attorneys general investigating ExxonMobil, or any NGOs involved in this legal fight, comes in the wake of what scientists have said is the hottest month in recorded human history. NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), both of which have been ensnared in Smith’s investigations, recently announced that the earth’s temperature in July was 1.57°F (0.87°C) above 20th century averages. According to NOAA, last month marks the 15th consecutive month that the world’s land and oceanic surface temperature was the highest in NOAA’s 137 years of temperature record keeping.

Some publications, including the Wall Street Journal, have accused the attorneys general and the likes of of obstinacy and say that Smith is entitled to any requested information per Congress’s legal mandate. Schneiderman and the parties on the other side of this dispute have framed the controversy as a states’ rights issue, which has turned the traditional Republican mantra of screaming against federal overreach on its head.

Meanwhile, has presented ExxonMobil’s conduct as akin to the tobacco industry’s past suppression of its products’ impact on human health. These accusations against ExxonMobil, which has led to the extended Rockefeller family to sell their stock in the company, have galvanized a group of NGOs to launch a site and social media campaign, #ExxonKnew. The coalition of 12 NGOs and publications are imploring the general public to become informed of the issue and hold the company accountable to what they say is more than three decades of climate change denial at the risk of public health and the long term viability of the planet.

Image credit: Ryan J. Reilly

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Leon Kaye

Based in Fresno, California, Leon Kaye has written for TriplePundit since 2010. He is currently Executive Editor of 3p, and is also the Director of Social Media and Engagement for 3BL Media. His previous work can also be found in The Guardian, Sustainable Brands and CleanTechnica. You can follow him on Twitter (@LeonKaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost). He's traveled worldwide and has lived in Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

12 responses

  1. If anything is a which hunt, it is the way all the AG’s are going after Exxon Mobile based on the fake man made up AGW. It is so unbelievable that there are so many brainwashed people who think human activity can dominate climate change, Global Warming / Climate Change is not a theory anymore, it is a religion, and the disciples of this religion are just as crazed and impervious to reason as the most radical Islamists. When you question their beliefs, you are labeled a denier, exactly the same way as the Islamists label infidels. Dr Roy Spencer, Dr John Christy, Dr Richard Lindzen, Dr Judith Curry, Dr Don Easterbrook, Dr. Will Harper, Dr Robert Balling, Dr. Lucka Bogataj, Dr Rosa Compagnucci, Dr John Daniel, Dr Robert Davis, Dr Willem de Lange, Dr Chris de Freitas ,Dr Oliver Frauenfeld,Dr Andrew Lacis, Dr Garth Poiltridge, Dr Bob Carter and I could present hundreds more, who state the climate change is 99% natural variability..,

    1. So Climate Science is a religion and you have scientists like Dr. Roy Spencer who focus on science, not religion, to give unbiased appraisals of the theory and the risk. So what does Dr, Spencer say about AGW? Here is the statement he signed as part of his role as an advisor to e Cornwall Alliance:

      “We believe Earth and its ecosystems – created by God’s intelligent design and infinite power and sustained by His faithful providence – are robust, resilient, self-regulating, and self-correcting, admirably suited for human flourishing, and displaying His glory. Earth’s climate system is no exception. Recent global warming is one of many natural cycles of warming and cooling in geologic history. We deny that Earth and its ecosystems are the fragile and unstable products of chance, and particularly that Earth’s climate system is vulnerable to dangerous alteration because of minuscule changes in atmospheric chemistry. Recent warming was neither abnormally large nor abnormally rapid. There is no convincing scientific evidence that human contribution to greenhouse gases is causing dangerous global warming.”

      Sure glad we have these dedicated men of science to keep climatology from veering off into theology.

  2. pipiasek, Your post is long on accusations, but short on facts. Man-made Climate change is not a religion. After all, hundreds if not thousands of papers have been written and published in peer-reviewed scientific journals supporting the premise of AGW. Can you say the same for any religion? How many times has the existence of the Holy Spirit been verified and if so, by whom? I’m not denying the possibility of the Holy Spirit, but merely pointing out the difference between a scientific theory and a religion one of which is proven by repeatable experimentation and the other which requires faith. Speaking of science, of the scientists you named, which ones have published articles in peer reviewed scientific journals refuting the premise of man-made global warming? I’d love to read their report.

    1. “Dr Roy Spencer, Dr John Christy, Dr Richard Lindzen, Dr Judith Curry, Dr Don Easterbrook, Dr. Will Harper, Dr Robert Balling, Dr. Lucka Bogataj, Dr Rosa Compagnucci, Dr John Daniel, Dr Robert Davis, Dr Willem de Lange, Dr Chris de Freitas ,Dr Oliver Frauenfeld,Dr Andrew Lacis, Dr Garth Poiltridge, Dr Bob Carter and I could present hundreds more, who state the climate change is 99% natural”. Those are a group of well respecred scientists that one side try and attack. They HAVE published many articles. The quote that 97% agree by one is also quite laughable. It is from a study of 12000 articles of which 4000 expressed their belief of man made global warming. Well, 97% of 4000 is one number and NOT 97% of a total. I still am open on what is causation but, I personally know MANY experts that don’t believe including a family member PHd in bio/enviro engineering AND a registered meteorologist. Yes, the climate is changing but, WHY?

      1. I notice you guys missed Willie Soon in your list of prominent science deniers. Is that because he was caught red handed selling his opinion for a cut of the fossil fuel profits?

        If you are ruling out CO2 as the main driver of current warming then it is indeed a big question WHY the Earth is warming. However, if you accept what has been known about this science for 120+ years, it is easily understood. The planet is warming rapidly due to the sudden increase in CO2, as was predicted many, many times since then. The numbers work.

        1. CO2 has risen many times over 1000’s of years according to some experts. Does CO2 increases precurse temperature increases or, does temperature rises cause CO2 to rise? Just questioning? You are aware that methane leaching from the ocean floors may be the biggest cause of CO2 that very few talk about. Why? And, why is it leaching? There are simply too many variables. Heck, we still can’t decide whether aspirin is good, bad or different after 1000’s of studies.

  3. Let me try to understand this .. a group of NGOs and State AGs refuse to cooperate with the Federal Government on the basis of States Rights ?

    They really are out on limb here, first off, they are investigating a Corporation that provides energy to the entire nation .. a vital resource for heating, lighting ,transportation, farming etc.. already, EXXON is under federal controls for Interstate Commerce…

    The AGs basis for refusing is thus ridiculous and illegal in my opinion ..

    The basis for the investigation is even more ridiculous.. What Exxon knew, or did not know about “Climate Change” ,or more importantly its effects . is completely …irrelevant. The entirety of the investigations basis is Speculation .. what conditions may, or may not , occur by 2100 are entirely ..Unknown .. as is the contribution of CO2 ..

    No one should support costly legal investigations of what might, or might not occur in the future .

    And collaboration of government prosecutors with political activists like Greenpeace must and should be looked into ..

    Here in California , we need to look into these groups as they are unelected and are interfering with our states energy supplies. Currently, they have taken it upon themselves to negotiate the closing of our nuclear power plants with our utilities , who authorized Green Peace to do this ?

    Let the investigations begin …

    1. “Revelle makes the point that man is now engaged in a vast geophysical experiment with his environment, the earth. Significant temperature changes are almost certain to occur by the year 2000 and these could bring about climatic changes…It is clear that we are unsure as to what our long-lived polutants are doing to our environment, however, there seems to be no doubt that damage to our environment could be severe…
      If the Earth’s temperature increases significantly, a number of events might be expected to occur, including the melting of the Antarctic ice cap, a rise in sea levels, warming of the oceans and an increase in photosynthesis.”

      – Final Report to the American Petroleum Institute by Stanford Research Institute, February 1968.

      1. Speculations .. from 1968 . So what ? The warming ongoing since ~ 1700 (200 years before CO2 rise) has been entirely, beneficial .. the life expectancies in the Developed FF and nuke using world per WHO 2013 is 75-85 years.. Life expectancy Undeveloped (Lo/No energy) world is 45 -55 years.

        -Temp change is an ongoing fact of Nature . Cooling for centuries, warming for centuries .. Millenia .. are common in the Holocene..

        One thing is certain , Exxons’ products keep millions alive . And our laws do not cover damages that might, or might not, occur ..

  4. Global warming/climate change is a political ploy to further globalization of the population and serve the elite (the 1%) as opposed to the general population. Hundreds of papers have been written about GHG human-induced global warming. However, they are based on temperature data that has been massaged. If the raw temperature data were examined closely, rather than using the manipulated numbers, the results would be different. The temperature/climate conditions in the recent past are not out of line with data accumulated over the past centuries. With regard to scientists attesting to human-caused global warming/climate change, the ones I’ve talked to voice their opinion based on published data, not the raw data or taking account of other natural influences on global temperature and climate change.
    The warmer temperatures this year in my opinion are not part of an out-of-control global warming due to human-related causes, but are an after effect of the very strong El Nino, which has left the southern Pacific Ocean warmer than usual. The magnitude of the El Nino cannot be explained by the GHG effect alone. The strong El Ninos occur cyclically (about every 15 years); if they were the result of the GHG effect, they would be constant based on the yearly CO2 monitoring, although as mentioned above the magnitude of temperature increase cannot be explained by the GHG effect. Based on the seismic and volcanic activity in the Pacific “Ring of Fire” over the past couple of years, it is likely that core magma from under the ocean waters may be contributing to the water’s warming. Unfortunately temperature monitoring of the ocean waters below about 2 miles has not been possible to present although this is currently being pursued.

  5. What is amazing is that Oil companies are private businesses and are not required to publish any of their research! These people want the oil companies research but for some reason NOAA and NASA dont have to publish their research or their emails or their data and how it was processed. Sounds like the Pot if you know what I mean!!!!

  6. Personally, I think the AGs and NGOs are going about this all backwards. They should be beating the doors down of the House Science Comittee to disclose everything they’ve got. In public, on the record. And, if Chairman Smith wants to hold the hearings in private, they should also disclose on the steps of the Capitol right before they go in.

    First thing that’s going to happen when they start to do that is Exxon is going to be screaming in Smith’s ear to stop it. If the AGs managed to harvest any documents under a Non Disclosure Agreement, Exxon will also sue them to stop, but most of these agreements require disclosure to empowered governmental authority.

    I’m thinking the US Congress qualifies, Exxon will lose and the stupid will rub off on the HSC.

    Here’s the funny thing about science. It’s not always right, but it tries to be. It evolves until it is. Historically, pretty much every dispute between science and anti-science was won by science eventually. AGW is no different, and the data is pouring in daily. Long odds to bet against, but the ball does land on 42 once in a while.

    One side is going to turn our to be right, and the other is going to turn out to be wrong. Reality will eventually intrude upon everyone’s beliefs.

    Everybody that has the courage of their convictions should open their Kimonos and get weighed and measured. Chairman Smith is letting it all hang out, everyone else should match his bet. Somebody is going to come up short.

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