Overnight Energy & Environment

Energy & Environment — Big Oil doubles down on fossil: House documents

FILE – An oil well works at sunrise Aug. 25, 2021, in Watford City, N.D., part of McKenzie County. The Biden administration on Friday, Nov. 26, called for an overhaul of the nation’s oil and gas leasing program to focus on areas that are most suitable for energy development and raise costs for energy companies to drill on public lands and water. (AP Photo/Matthew Brown, File)

House Democrats release new cache of documents in their probe into the oil industry. Meanwhile, a Michigan judge dropped charges against former Gov. Rick Snyder (R) related to the Flint Water Crisis.  

This is Overnight Energy & Environment, your source for the latest news focused on energy, the environment and beyond. For The Hill, we’re Rachel Frazin and Zack Budryk. Someone forward you this newsletter? Sign up here or in the box below.

Oversight Democrats release more docs in oil probe 

House Democrats, as part of their probe into Big Oil, on Friday released documents in which major oil companies detail their strategy to invest further in fossil fuel energy.

Democrats on the House Oversight and Reform Committee are making the case that the documents show that the industry has “greenwashed” its public image — that is, pretended to be greener than it actually is.  

They shared internal documents from the American Petroleum Institute (API), a major oil and gas lobby and trade association, in which the organization’s climate activities are described in relation to its oil and gas business.  

  • One memo describes reducing a process called flaring as “an opportunity to further secure the industry’s license to operate.” 
  • In a separate email, an API employee says that “so many of the issues that guide API’s work on climate policymaking are related to the continued promotion of natural gas.”  
  • Similarly, the committee released slides from the advisory firm Brunswick, which the Democrats said were prepared for BP, that describe support for reducing emissions of the planet-warming gas methane as part of a campaign to promote natural gas. “Secure support for gas as a natural low carbon fuel by taking a leading commitment to methane reduction,” the slide said.  
  • Meanwhile, the committee also released strategy slides from Chevron in which the company says that it will “continue to invest” in traditional energy — that is, fossil fuels, even as competitors retreat. 

In response to the released documents, API insisted that the industry is committed to both energy production and taking on climate change.  

“Our industry is focused on continuing to produce affordable, reliable energy while tackling the climate challenge, and any allegations to the contrary are false,” said API Senior Vice President Megan Bloomgren in a statement to The Hill. 

DEMOCRATS SAY THE DOCUMENTS SHOW GREENWASHING 

Committee Democrats argued in a memo released along side the documents that they show a greenwashing effort. 

“These documents demonstrate how the fossil fuel industry ‘greenwashed’ its public image with promises and actions that oil and gas executives knew would not meaningfully reduce emissions, even as the industry moved aggressively to lock in continued fossil fuel production for decades to come — actions that could doom global efforts to prevent catastrophic climate change,” the memo said. 

Meanwhile, the committee’s top Republican blasted the report as partisan. He vowed to instead turn the microscope onto the Biden administration when the GOP takes power in the House in January.  

“The Democrats’ report is the grand finale of a partisan show designed to demonize America’s energy producers and force radical Green New Deal policies on Americans that drive up the cost of energy,” said Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.) in a written statement. 

“Instead of political stunts, Republicans will return the Oversight Committee to its primary mission of conducting oversight over the Biden Administration and its disastrous energy policies that have ignited an energy crisis,” Comer added. 

Read more about the latest documents here.  

Charges dropped against former gov in Flint case  

Charges against former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) over the Flint water crisis were dropped this week. 

Snyder had been charged with two counts of willful neglect of duty in connection with a water supply switch that left Flint residents exposed to lead through their drinking water.  

The dismissal of charges against him came after the state’s Supreme Court took issue with the indictment procedure used in the case.  

  • The charges against the seven other people, including former state and local officials, in connection with the Flint issue were also dropped following the Supreme Court’s ruling.  
  • “The charges against [Snyder] were not properly brought and must be dismissed at this time,” Genesee County Judge F. Kay Behm wrote in an order dismissing charges, photos of which were obtained by The Hill. 

Prosecutors said in a written statement that they would appeal the decision.  

The background:  

  • Flint’s drinking water was contaminated after the source of their water supply was shifted from Lake Huron to the Flint River in 2014. The water wasn’t adequately treated and this caused lead from pipes to leach into the city’s drinking water.  
  • The water source switch has also been linked to a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak that killed 12 people. 

Read more about the dismissed charges here.  

🛢️ FEDS EXAMINING KEYSTONE PIPELINE LEAK 

The federal government is investigating a leak of the Keystone Pipeline in Kansas, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Friday.  

Buttigieg announced the probe on Twitter and also said that the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration issued an order requiring a segment of the pipeline to shut down. 

TC Energy, the company behind the pipeline, said Thursday that it shut down the vessel amid an oil spill into a creek in Washington County, Kansas. 

The company added Friday that the spill had been contained.  

The Keystone pipeline system runs between the U.S. and Canada. The proposed Keystone XL pipeline would have expanded it. 

Senate expected to continue Big Oil probe  

Democrats lost control of the House but expanded their Senate majority, giving them greater power to issue subpoenas that party senators say they plan to use to investigate price gouging and other inequities in corporate America.   

Democratic committee and subcommittee chairs say they plan to call on corporations to provide more information about how they price prescription drugs, health insurance plans and other goods and services that have soared in cost in recent years. 

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), who is in line to become chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said he’s interested in investigating what energy company companies are saying about climate change behind closed doors and how their private strategy deliberations may diverge radically from their company’s public message about trying to stem global warming.   

  • “I think the House has already done some good work on the oil and gas industry and has obtained a lot of documents showing the discrepancy between the external voices of the industry and what they say when they’re talking to each other internally. I think we can continue to work on that for sure,” Whitehouse said.  
  • “They talk green and when they think nobody is listening, the real industry position emerges,” he said. 

The investigation is not expected to continue in the House after Republicans take power.  

Read about additional probes Senate Democrats may take up here, from The Hill’s Alexander Bolton.  

ON TAP NEXT WEEK

    Tuesday 

  • The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing examining the Interior Department’s implementation of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.  

    Thursday 

  • The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing on plastic use and waste 

WHAT WE’RE READING

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Energy & Environment page for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you next week.  

Tags James Comer Rick Snyder
See all Hill.TV See all Video

Most Popular

Load more

Video

See all Video