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Senate Dems Claim ExxonMobil, Energy Industry Deception Blocking Climate Change Legislation

Nineteen Democratic senators are taking to the Senate floor this week to call out ExxonMobil Corp. and industry-backed groups for spinning a "web of denial" to block legislative action on climate change.

Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse is leading the effort for a resolution to urge fossil fuel corporations and their allies to cooperate with "investigations into their climate-related activities."

"The web has been built and provisioned,” Whitehouse said, by the “deep-pocketed Koch brothers,” as well as ExxonMobil Corp., Peabody Coal Corp. “and other fossil fuel interests." Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) is expected to introduce the resolution in the House.

The group of senators plans to deliver remarks through this week about how "interconnected groups," funded by the energy industry, as well as "identity-scrubbing groups" that include Donors Trust and Donors Capital, "developed and executed a massive campaign to deceive the public about climate change to halt climate action and protect their bottom lines."

"We have to be open to different points of view, but when the science is settled and people who know better are fighting against it, we should know better," Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine said.

ExxonMobil long has battled critics who claim the company misled investors for years about how its operations may impact climate change; New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman launched a wide ranging investigation last fall (see Daily GPIJune 30Nov. 6, 2015). The company said it has "continuously, publicly and openly researched and discussed" climate change risks, carbon life-cycle analysis and emissions reductions.

"To suggest that we had reached definitive conclusions, decades before the world's experts and while climate science was in an early stage of development, is not credible," a spokesman said.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute compared the White House-led resolution to unsubstantiated claims by the late Sen. Joe McCarthy of Wisconsin, who led an investigation beginning in 1950 that Communists and Soviet spies had infiltrated the U.S. government. "McCarthyism" often is used to characterize unsubstantiated accusations and/or public attacks on a person's character.

"Apparently, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse is the new Sen. Joe McCarthy, and green is the new blacklist," CEI President Kent Lassman said. "It is unhealthy for democracy and abusive when members of Congress create an enemies list based on policy positions."

In addition to Whitehouse and Kaine, senators also planning to speak this week about the climate change resolution include Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada; Barbara Boxer, California; Dick Durbin, Illinois; Jack Reed, Rhode Island; Chuck Schumer, New York; Ben Cardin, Maryland; Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, New Mexico; Jeanne Shaheen, New Hampshire; Jeff Merkley, Oregon; Al Franken, Minnesota; Chris Coons, Delaware; Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut; Brian Schatz, Hawaii; Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, Massachusetts; and Gary Peters, Michigan.

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