Energy & Environment

Porter blasts oil CEOs: ‘Declined to answer to the American people’

Greg Nash

Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) on Wednesday chastised oil company executives who declined her invitation to testify before the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, saying they “declined to answer to the American people.”

Porter, who chairs the subcommittee, invited the CEOs of ExxonMobil, Devon Energy and EOG Resources to testify at a hearing, which was titled, “Misuse of Taxpayer Dollars and Corporate Welfare in the Oil and Gas Industry.”

All three, as well as officials with the trade group Western Energy Alliance, ultimately declined. 

“I have long said that congressional hearings are opportunities for representatives and witnesses to be in conversation with Americans. Yet, despite receiving billions in taxpayer subsidies, every witness that we invited today from the oil and gas industry declined to answer to the American people,” Porter said, responding during Wednesday’s hearing. 

Porter particularly pointed to tax breaks meant to encourage fossil fuel production, what she described as “outdated” royalty rates and rental fees for public lands drilling as well as coronavirus-related aid. 

Exxon also declined to participate in a separate Senate hearing that took place last month. 

Exxon spokesperson Casey Norton told The Hill last week in an email, “We provided our responses to the members of Congress, and we will continue to engage with them on the important issue of climate change.”  

Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance, told The Hill via email last week that the group had a board meeting at the same time, but also characterized the hearing as political. 

“I’ve willingly participated in many hearings over the years, and am always happy to engage in a rational dialogue with Congress on important energy issues. But this hearing has no clear goals with a Chair who’s more interested in scoring messaging points than discussing issues, so I didn’t feel inclined to rearrange my schedule,” Sgamma said.

Asked for additional comment on Wednesday, she also pushed back on Porter’s remark about taxpayer subsidies, saying in an email that the industry “pays many times over in state, federal and local taxes (corporate, income, severance, property, etc.) and royalties… what are incorrectly claimed to be subsidies.” 

EOG and Devon didn’t respond to The Hill’s request for comment last week, and none of the companies immediately responded to The Hill’s request for additional comment on Porter’s remarks on Wednesday.

Rep. Paul Gosar (Ariz.), the subcommittee’s top Republican, criticized the hearing as “a publicity stunt and not a respectable forum for rational and productive discussion.”

“It’s clear to me that this hearing is just another act in the majority’s drama vilifying Americans working in the oil and gas industry,” Gosar said. 

Porter is well-known for bringing her whiteboard to hearings to grill companies and others in moments that often go viral on social media, including an exchange with a pharmaceutical CEO on Tuesday over drug pricing. 

–Updated at 3:19 p.m.

Tags ExxonMobil Katie Porter Paul Gosar
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