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Dems refer oil probe to the feds

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May 22, 2024
Photo illustration of oil spilling out of a barrel, oil pipelines and abstract shapes.

Photo illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

Democrats are asking the Justice Department to investigate oil companies for deceptive climate claims after a multiyear investigation, Nick writes.

Why it matters: This doesn't guarantee a tobacco-style federal case, but Democrats are offering access to thousands of internal industry documents gathered via subpoena.

Driving the news: Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Rep. Jamie Raskin wrote Attorney General Merrick Garland today to "formally refer" their climate disinformation probe to the feds.

  • Whitehouse suggested they'd let DOJ examine documents the committees haven't put out publicly: "We also let them know that there's a whole lot more documents for them to look to if they wish."
  • Justice didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Zoom in: The Democrats allege oil companies are "using deceptive practices to entrench the use of fossil fuels."

  • That includes selling natural gas as a "bridge fuel" and advertising low-carbon technology despite internal doubts about its viability.

The other side: API spokesperson Andrea Woods said the move is "another unfounded political charade to distract from persistent inflation and America's need for more energy, including oil and natural gas."

  • Others involved in the inquiry — the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, BP, Shell, Exxon and Chevron — didn't immediately respond to comment requests.

Our thought bubble: This is but one part of the fresh election-year pressure Democrats are putting on the oil industry.

  • House E&C Dems also said today they're launching an investigation into oil companies "colluding" to drive up prices.
  • Raskin would likely be in charge of House Oversight next year if Dems take the House, so we could see him deepen both these lines of inquiry.
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