House Oversight Committee expects big oil executives to testify this month

House Oversight Committee expects big oil executives to testify this month
© Greg Nash

The House Oversight and Reform Committee says it expects executives from Exxon Mobil, BP, Chevron and Shell to testify at a hearing on climate disinformation, a committee spokeswoman confirmed to The Hill on Wednesday.

“We expect each of the executives we invited to appear before our Committee and testify under oath,” the spokeswoman said in an email.

“What we need from the fossil fuel industry is complete cooperation with our investigation, so the American people can understand the role the industry played in fueling the climate crisis,” she added.

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The committee last month invited the executives, as well as leaders from the Chamber of Commerce and American Petroleum Institute (API) trade group, to testify at an Oct. 28 hearing.

The API confirmed Wednesday that its CEO, Mike Sommers, would participate in the hearing, and U.S. Chamber of Commerce spokesperson Matt Letourneau said President and CEO Suzanne Clark plans to testify.

"We look forward to discussing the Chamber’s work to forge bipartisan solutions to our climate challenge," Letourneau said.

Shell spokesperson Curtis Smith confirmed that the company also would participate but said it is "still finalizing details related to the request and look forward to working with the Committee to address their questions."

Smith later confirmed that Shell President Gretchen Watkins will testify.

BP America Chairman and President Dave Lawler plans to testify, the company said in a statement, adding that it will "continue working with the committee on the details of their requests."

Reached for comment, Exxon Mobil spokesperson Casey Norton said the company continues "to communicate with committee staff” but didn’t directly say whether an executive will testify.

Chevron spokesperson Braden Reddall said in an email to The Hill that the company is "committed to participating."

The Washington Post first reported on Wednesday that the executives would testify, citing an interview with Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaSunday shows preview: Supply chain crisis threaten holiday sales; uncertainty over whether US can sustain nationwide downward trend in COVID-19 cases Congress needs to step up on crypto, or Biden might crush it House Oversight Committee expects big oil executives to testify this month MORE (D-Calif.), a member of the committee.

The committee has wanted the executives to testify for months -- some notably avoided invitations to testify before both the House and Senate this year -- and Khanna has weighed issuing subpoenas.

The tension heated up in the wake of an undercover sting in which an Exxon lobbyist was caught on tape admitting that the company fought against some of the science on climate change.

“Did we aggressively fight against some of the science? Yes. Did we hide our science?  Absolutely not. Did we join some of these shadow groups to work against some of the early efforts?  Yes that’s true,” said the lobbyist, Keith McCoy. “But there’s nothing illegal about that.”

McCoy also cast doubt on the company's sincerity behind its backing of a carbon tax, calling it "a talking point."

In the aftermath, the company sought to distance itself from the comments, with CEO Darren Woods saying they don't reflect the company's positions.

A number of states and localities have sued major industry players, including the companies and trade groups slated to testify, alleging misinformation over climate change. The companies and trade associations have denied the accusations.

Updated at 1:05 p.m.