GOP chairman slams SEC over Exxon investigation

GOP chairman slams SEC over Exxon investigation
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Rep. Lamar SmithLamar Seeligson SmithDemocratic staffer says Wendy Davis will run for Congress Ex-GOP Rep. Roskam joins lobbying firm Anti-corruption group hits Congress for ignoring K Street, Capitol Hill 'revolving door' MORE (R-Texas) is chastising the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), saying its investigation of ExxonMobil Corp. may chill legitimate climate change research.

Smith, chairman of the House Science Committee, accused the SEC of trying to enforce its favored views on climate change while punishing dissension.

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In a letter Thursday to the independent regulatory agency, Smith said he sees the SEC’s probe as an extension of Democratic New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s investigation into whether Exxon lied to shareholders and the public about what it knew about climate change.

Smith has embarked on a high-profile, months-long attempt to crack down on Schneiderman’s investigation and one by the Massachusetts attorney general and compel both offices to give him all of their documents regarding their probes.

“The committee is concerned that the SEC, by wielding its enforcement authority against companies like Exxon for its collection of and reliance on what is perhaps in the SEC’s view inadequate climate data used to value its assets, advances a prescriptive climate change orthodoxy that may chill further climate change research throughout the public and private scientific R&D sector,” Smith wrote to SEC Chairwoman Mary Jo White.

“Specifically, the committee is concerned that an investigation into whether Exxon failed to comply with the climate change-related disclosure regulations for its oil reserves and other assets may be a disincentive to conducting scientific research that underlies and informs those asset valuations,” he said.

Smith gave the SEC two weeks to produce a broad swath of documents, including everything about any climate change-related investigations, communications with the Justice Department or White House about them, communications with the attorneys general of New York and Massachusetts and communications with various environmental groups.

The SEC declined to comment on Smith’s letter.

Exxon has confirmed news reports from earlier this month that the SEC is investigating the oil giant, but the agency itself has not commented.

Exxon said it welcomes the SEC’s probe, saying the federal commission is the appropriate body to investigate the claims regarding shareholder disclosure, not state attorneys general.

The company has consistently stood by its practices and said that it has followed all relevant laws and regulations.