Groups Hand 360,000 Signatures to Justice Department Calling for "Exxon Knew" Probe

Exxon social license revoked

With the hottest October in world history recorded recently, a slew of advocacy groups have delivered 360,000 petition signatures to the U.S. Department of Justice, calling for a probe of petrochemical industry giant ExxonMobil's history of funding climate change denial despite what the company knew about climate science. 

The groups ranging from 350.org, Food and Watch Watch, Climate Parents, Moms Clean Air Force, The Nation, Sierra Club and others have asked DOJ to investigate what ExxonMobil knew about climate change and when the company knew it, juxtaposing that insider knowledge, exposed by both InsideClimate News and The Los Angeles Times, with the climate change denial campaign it funded both in the past and through to the present

“That's right: decades before climate change became a hotly debated political issue, the biggest oil company in the world was doing cutting-edge research into just what was causing it and how dangerous it might be,” reads the petition, pointing back to the research the company did on climate change dating back to the 1970's and 1980's

“But Exxon chose to protect their profits over the planet, and proceeded to cover up their findings for nearly forty years.,” it continues. “They hid the work of their own scientists, while financing an elaborate network of climate-denial think tanks, organizations, and politicians.”

“Might Get Away With It”

The petition also says that while it's unsurprising ExxonMobil committed such a deed, what's scary is that in the legal sphere “they just might get away with it.”

That concern by the groups does not arise out of a vacuum.

Case in point: coal giant Peabody Energy recently got off the hook in the aftermath of a New York State Attorney General Office investigation by merely amending some line-items in its corporate securities filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). 

“Really all they're going to do is change what they say in their annual financial statements to the Securities and Exchange Commission where they talk about risk, and what the risks might be from, let's say, litigation or regulation,” Dan Zegart of the Climate Investigations Center explained in a recent appearance on The Real News Network. “So this is really not a satisfactory conclusion. It's better than nothing, but not a lot better than nothing.”

The petition delivery comes at a tumultuous time for Exxon, with its vice president of public and government affairs and spokesman Ken Cohen announcing his retirement after 38 years on the job. Several congressional Democrats, including both U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA), have also requested a DOJ investigation focused on ExxonMobil.

Further, in New York, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has launched his own investigation that encompasses not only Exxon itself, but the front groups it funds to deny climate change, including the likes of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Like the investigation groups are calling for the DOJ to do, Schneiderman's probe will compare and contrast Exxon's climate change knowledge with its public deception campaign.

Heat is On

The planet is indeed getting hotter, but so too is the public heat on ExxonMobil. Of course that hasn't stopped the company from committing to more offshore drilling and continuing business as usual.

“The reckless quest to squeeze every last bit of oil and gas from the planet, consequences be damned, is a stark symbol of our broken democracy,” Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, remarked in a press statement. “Like the tobacco companies before them, Exxon and the rest of the oil and gas industry must be brought to justice. They played the general public and policymakers for fools on an issue that is imperative to our survival.”

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