House Democrats Ask DOJ to Probe Shell Climate Stance

March 4, 2016
In The News

February 19, 2016

By ANTHONY ADRAGNA

Bloomberg BNA

Development: Three House lawmakers ask the Justice Department to investigate whether Shell deceived the public and investors on the risks of climate change.

What's Next: The DOJ has not commented on a similar request for an investigation into Exxon Mobil and did not comment on the latest letter.

Feb. 19 (BNA) -- Three House Democrats are asking the Department of Justice to investigate Royal Dutch Shell Plc for allegedly “intentionally hiding the truth about climate change and embarking on a massive campaign of denial and disinformation.”

“We request the DOJ investigate whether Shell violated, or conspired to violate, Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), consumer protection, truth in advertising, public health, or other laws,” Reps. Ted Lieu (Calif.), Peter Welch (Vt.) and Matt Cartwright (Pa.) wrote in a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch obtained by Bloomberg BNA Feb. 19.

Heat Rises on Oil Companies

Calls from Democrats to investigate fossil fuel companies over their climate change positions have intensified in recent months after media reports suggested ExxonMobil Corp. funded groups questioning climate change science even though its own scientists warned executives of the risks it posed to operations (10 WCR 1052, 12/25/15).

Exxon has called such reports “inaccurate distortions” of its research activities, but the House Democrats now say evidence points to a broader “conspiracy between Shell, Exxon Mobil and potentially other companies” to deceive the public.

“Shell engineers knew about climate change and Shell took internal actions based on its knowledge of climate change,” the letter said. “Yet Shell funded and publicly engaged in a campaign to deceive the American people about the known risks of fossil fuels in causing climate change.”

Shell Responds to Letter

In response to the letter, a company spokesman said “Shell's public position on climate change and the challenge CO2 poses is well known and can be documented for over a decade through publications such as the Shell Annual Report and the Shell Sustainability Report.”

“We continue to pursue and advance constructive dialogue on this topic as the challenge is one for all of society,” the spokesman said.

The DOJ told Bloomberg BNA it would review the letter but declined further comment.

Federal authorities have yet to respond to similar calls from House Democrats to investigate Exxon, but the attorneys general of California and New York are already investigating whether that company misled the public and its investors about the risks of burning fossil fuels (10 WCR 907, 11/13/15).