House Science Chair Lamar Smith defends Exxon by expanding his inquiry to the SEC. - Grist

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House Science Chair Lamar Smith defends Exxon by expanding his inquiry to the SEC.

The congressman accused the Securities and Exchange Commission Thursday of unfairly targeting the oil giant by investigating whether the company disclosed its financial risks from climate change and greenhouse gas regulations to investors.

In a letter to SEC Chair Mary Jo White, Smith demands that the commission provide his committee with documents related to the Exxon probe by Oct. 13.

Smith writes that the SEC has advanced “a prescriptive climate change orthodoxy that may chill further climate change research,” which seems odd for someone who doesn’t actually believe in climate change.

Still, it’s about what we’d expect from Smith, a recipient of $680,000 from oil and gas over his career.

Smith — who, ironically, is both a climate denier and the head of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology — has used his position to aid Exxon before: He’s accused 17 state attorneys general of violating the corporation’s right to free speech by looking into allegations that Exxon has known about climate change for decades.

Why does Smith go to bat for Exxon repeatedly, despite risking political backlash? Gretchen Goldman, an analyst at Union of Concerned Scientists (one of the groups being targeted by Smith), has a theory.

“If you’re talking about climate change and doing anything to try to hold actors accountable, he wants to intimidate you.”