Committee Hearing Examines Fossil Fuel Industry’s Role in Climate Disinformation

Sep 15, 2022
Press Release

Washington, D.C. (Sept. 15, 2022)— Today, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, the Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, and Rep. Ro Khanna, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Environment, held a hearing to hear firsthand accounts from survivors of severe weather events induced by climate change and to examine the adequacy of climate pledges made by Exxon, Chevron, BP, and Shell. 


Ahead of the hearing, the Chairs released a new memo with an update on the Committee’s year-long investigation into the fossil fuel industry’s campaign to mislead the American people about the industry’s role in climate change. 


The Committee heard testimony from individuals impacted by the climate crisis:  Kara Boyd, Thomas Joseph, Roishetta Ozane, Mary Cromer, and Jasmin Sanchez.  The Committee also heard testimony from Isabella M. Weber, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Economics at University of Massachusetts Amherst; Raya Salter, Esq., Founder and Executive Director of the Energy Justice Law and Policy Center and Member of the New York State Climate Action Council; and J. Mijin Cha, Ph.D., J.D., Associate Professor of Urban and Environmental Policy at Occidental College and Fellow at the Cornell University Worker Institute.


  • Members and witnesses discussed how fossil fuel companies are making record profits to enrich shareholders while fleecing families at the gas pump, cutting corners that endanger workers, and driving climate change.


  • Asked by Chairwoman Maloney about why Big Oil companies fought to avoid commitments to align their business practices with their climate pledges, Dr. Weber said, “We have seen in the present crisis that profits are the ultimate and only goal of Big Oil corporations.”


  • When asked by Rep. Bush about how burning fossil fuels is harming workers, Dr. Cha responded, “The fossil fuel industry is, in general, very dangerous work.”  She continued:  “So even when we burn fossil fuels, it’s not just carbon dioxide that are released but there are other air pollutants that are released that are dangerous to communities and to workers.  And to increase profits, fossil fuel companies often cut safety measures so that they can increase their profits, but at the expense of workers.”  


  • In response to Rep. Sarbanes’ questioning about oil companies exploiting the war in Ukraine, Dr. Weber responded:  “It’s important to notice that the energy crisis long preceded the war in Ukraine.” 


  • Witnesses shared how heatwaves, wildfires, floods, and other extreme weather made worse by climate change are already having a devastating impact across the United States.


  • Testifying on surviving Hurricane Sandy as a public housing resident in a community of color, Ms. Sanchez stated:  “Climate justice is a racial justice issue.  Sandy showed the inequities in our city.  If you didn’t have a car, you couldn’t leave.  If you didn’t have financial means, you couldn’t relocate.  If you weren’t financially stable, you still had to work, and if you didn’t have cash on hand, you couldn’t buy the basic necessities.  I, along with many of my neighbors, were in survival mode.” 


  • In response to questioning by Rep. Pressley, Dr. Weber stated:  “Low-income households are clearly the ones that are hit hardest by the energy price explosion.  They are the ones that have least means to weatherize their homes.  Black and Brown communities face, on top of this, discrimination in the housing market, which means that they typically end up living in homes that are less well insulated or less energy efficient.”  She continued,  “And that is pushing millions of households in these communities over the tipping point into energy insecurity or for those that were already energy insecure before the crisis, into straight-out poverty.” 


  • In response to Rep. Khanna’s question on the intersection of environmental and climate justice, Ms. Salter said:  “The same people—the same frontline communities—that are suffering the most health and other negative impacts from fossil fuels, are also the same ones who are facing extraordinarily high energy burdens, and of course struggling with the cost of basic food and utilities.  So, we need to phase out fossil fuels to alleviate fossil fuel racism and alleviate the burden on frontline communities.”


  • Members and witnesses examined findings from the Committee’s investigation showing that Big Oil is “greenwashing”—issuing misleading climate pledges to cover up the failure to take adequate steps to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement.


  • In response to questioning from Chairwoman Maloney on an internal memorandum showing Exxon and Chevron worked behind the scenes to water down industry climate commitments, Ms. Salter stated:  “Unfortunately, the fossil fuel company commitments are just frankly disingenuous.  The fossil fuel lobby combats climate action on every single level—global, national, state, and regional.”  


  • In response to a question from Rep. Johnson regarding the sincerity of oil companies to meet their climate pledges, Ms. Salter stated:  “They are absolutely insincere.  They have no intention of wavering from selling their core product which is fossil fuels.  They are pushing carbon capture and sequestration, which they know will not work, to pushing so-called solutions like ‘renewable natural gas.’  Their modus is to continue to produce throughout whatever transition may happen and continue to push states like New York, which is trying to move away from fossil fuels, to include these false solutions in our energy plans.”


  • In response to a question from Rep. Ocasio-Cortez on the increased advertising in political newsletters by the oil lobby and their influence on the legislative process, Dr. Cha stated: “I think they have direct influence, of course, because one thing that they do is that they mainstream their talking points, so they become very normal, even though what they are saying is quite extreme; they regularly do full page ads in the New York Times to make it seem like they are doing what the need to be doing to meet their climate targets, when in fact we know that it is the exact opposite.”


  • Members and witnesses discussed how Democrats in Congress are making investments in renewable energy to put America on a path to energy independence and urged Big Oil to take action.


  • Dr. Weber said: “I think that fossil fuel dependence makes the American economy less stable and more volatile, because oil prices are structurally volatile.”


  • In response to a question from Rep. Khanna regarding the benefits of a windfall profits tax, Ms. Salter stated:  “We absolutely need to be looking at all of the significant ways that we can address inflation and looking into where profits have been a windfall.  Having an honest conversation could lead to policies that would lead to more significant relief and more equality.”


  • In response to Rep. Pressley’s question on how a just transition to renewable energy through investments like the Inflation Reduction Act would improve the economy, Dr. Cha responded:  “The potential for jobs is tremendous; ensuring that they are good jobs, that they are union jobs, that makes our economy stronger because unions have built the middle class.  So, the more we can create union jobs in renewable energy, the stronger our economy will become.”


Click here to read the Committee memo.


Click here to read selected investigation documents.



117th Congress