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Members of Congress call for investigation of Shell over climate change

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Ivan Penn: 18 FEB 2016

A Southern California congressman and two other representatives are calling for an investigation of Shell Oil over whether it deceived the public on climate change at the same time it was preparing its business operations for rising sea levels. 

In a Feb. 17 letter to U.S. Atty. Gen. Loretta Lynch, the three members of Congress said growing evidence suggests there may have been “a conspiracy between Shell, Exxon Mobil and potentially other companies in the fossil fuel industry.”

U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) sent the letter along with Rep. Peter Welch of Vermont and Rep. Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania, both Democrats.

Their letter cites an investigation published by the Los Angeles Times that reported that in 1989 Shell Oil announced it was redesigning a long-term, $3-billion natural gas platform in the North Sea to deal with rising sea levels from global warming. Despite this and other incidents, the congressmen noted, “Shell apparently decided to fund climate deniers.”

Reporters for Columbia University Energy and Environmental Reporting Fellowship, in partnership with The Times published reports based on internal company documents suggesting that during the 1980s and 1990s, Exxon, as it was known then, used climate research as part of its planning and other business practices. But the company simultaneously argued publicly that climate-change science was not clear cut.

The nonprofit InsideClimate News also published several stories based on the documents.

California Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris is investigating whether Exxon Mobil repeatedly lied to the public and its shareholders about the risk to its business from climate change — and whether such actions could amount to securities fraud and violations of environmental laws. New York’s attorney general also is investigating the oil company as a result of the published reports.

“As members of the Oversight Committee, we now ask that Shell also be investigated for intentionally hiding the truth about climate change and embarking on a massive campaign of denial and disinformation,” the letter states.

Shell spokesman Curtis Smith responded to the letter by saying that “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. Recognizing the climate challenge and the role energy has in enabling a decent quality of life, we continue to pursue and advance constructive dialogue on this topic as the challenge is one for all of society.”

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