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Rep. Ro Khanna, (D-Calif.), seen on Capitol Hill on April 4, 2019. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The House Committee on Oversight on Monday requested an interview with ExxonMobil senior lobbyist Keith McCoy regarding the company's efforts "to mislead the global public" and Congress about fossil fuels' role in causing global warming.

Why it matters: The request for a transcribed interview on Aug. 9, sent Monday, comes after McCoy was caught on camera discussing the company's lobbying tactics. This is the most serious congressional action to date related to the widely reported videos in which McCoy spoke candidly and under false pretenses with representatives of the environmental group GreenpeaceUK.

The videos were aired by the British broadcaster Channel 4.

The big picture: In the letter to McCoy, Democratic Reps. Ro Khanna of California, who chairs the panel's Subcommittee on Environment, and Carolyn Maloney of New York, who leads the powerful full committee, point out several issues they want answers on from the senior director of Exxon's federal relations shop.

Details: The issues Maloney and Khanna express interest in include climate science and policy, as well as hazardous chemicals regulation and the company's view of lawmakers as fish that need to be "reeled in" via lobbying efforts.

  • First on their list is Exxon's history of funding think tanks and trade associations as part of a campaign to sow public doubt in climate science, despite the company's longstanding knowledge of how serious a threat global warming poses.
  • The letter to McCoy requesting the interview notes that McCoy can shed light on any ongoing disinformation efforts.
  • "Your statements raise serious concerns about your role in ongoing efforts by ExxonMobil and the fossil fuel industry to spread disinformation, including through the use of "shadow groups," in order to block action to address climate change," the lawmakers write.
  • On the tapes, McCoy and also discussed Exxon's role in producing substances containing polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), also known as "forever chemicals," and characterized Exxon's support of a carbon tax as a ploy to appear to be favoring climate action when the company knows it most likely won't be adopted.
  • In the videos, McCoy told the Greenpeace activist who recorded the discussion that backing a carbon tax gives Exxon a "talking point," but that it's "not going to happen."

Catch up quick: McCoy has publicly apologized for his comments, and Exxon CEO Darren Woods took the unusual step of issuing an apology soon after they became news.

  • Exxon is the subject of litigation in multiple jurisdictions for knowing early on that its products posed the risk of contributing to global warming, and its strategic choice to fund think tanks and trade associations that worked to cast doubt about the reliability of the science.

What's next: The lawmakers gave McCoy until Friday to respond to their request, and the signature of the full committee chair on the letter indicates that a subpoena to provide testimony could follow a refusal to cooperate.

Go deeper

Updated Sep 16, 2021 - Energy & Environment

UN climate summit warning signs are adding up

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

There are growing signs that make-or-break climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland, this fall won’t produce tangible plans for emissions cuts that keep the Paris agreement’s targets viable.

Why it matters: The climate summit is billed by world and environmental leaders as the last, best hope for securing the global commitments needed to get countries on track to avoiding potentially catastrophic levels of climate change during the next several decades.

Updated 3 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Thousands without power as "hazardous" winter storm lashes East Coast

Satellite imagery of the Northeastern U.S. taken by NOAA on Jan. 17. Photo: NOAA

A major winter storm lashed much of the East Coast Sunday and Monday, causing widespread power outages and disrupting travel over the holiday weekend.

The latest: Authorities in North Carolina confirmed that two people died in a car crash and that they responded 600 vehicle accidents during the storm on Sunday, per the Washington Post.

Texas abortion law remains in effect after appeals court ruling

Pro- and anti-abortion protesters outside the Supreme Court as arguments begin about the Texas abortion law on Capitol Hill in November. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

A U.S. appeals court transferred a challenge to Texas' law banning most abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy to the state supreme court in a 2-1 vote on Monday evening.

Why it matters: The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' decision means the country's most restrictive abortion law can remain in place for the time being.

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