Lamar Smith: Guardian of Exxon’s Secrets

unicorn award
Coalition of environmental groups preparing to deliver U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) a “unicorn award” back in 2013 for his repeated denial of climate science. Front: Mobi Warren, San Antonio founder of the local chapter. Image credit: Greg Harman

U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) called this week’s hearing of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology in the hopes of rounding up support. The defender of all things oily wanted to hear legal justification for his campaign to compel testimony from New York and Massachusetts states attorneys general (and others) who have been working to answer a question of significantly more importance.

The question (a two-parter, really) that Rep. Smith doesn’t appear to want answered is: How much did Exxon know about the link between its own industrial pollution and the current warming of the planet and when did it know it?

Lamar Smith
Lamar Smith

We know in large part (See: “Exxon Knew About Climate Change Almost 40 Years Ago“). Now, many are arguing, it’s time to collect the evidence moving toward potential prosecution for burying that in-house research and putting the public (ie. the world) in mounting peril.

“Many” does not include Smith, who instead has been attacking climate scientists, activists, and members of the judiciary pursing questions that threaten his biggest campaign donors (See Maplight: Top Campaign Contributions.)

For a chronicling of Smith’s mission to unmask what he asserts is a massive scientific conspiracy to trick the world into pollution-lite low-carbon power generation (or something), it’s worth following Phil Plait (AKA the “Bad Astronomer”) at New Scientist, who last year referred to Smith’s campaign as “The saga of The Man in the US Congress in Charge of Science but Who Doesn’t Understand It.”

Bravely watching Wednesday’s entire 2-plus-hour confab so you don’t actually have to (though, you know, there it is above for the factcheck/entertainment/punishment), Chris D’Angelo at Huffington Post extracted what may be considered the meeting’s highlights: pushback from committee Democrats.

This includes fellow Texas Rep Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) statement:

“This hearing appears to be the culmination of a politically motivated ‘oversight’ agenda that has been applauded by oil, gas and mining interests and broadly condemned by the public, the media and the independent scientific community across the country and around the world.”

D’Angelo writes:

Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) said he is concerned the subpoenas might interfere with legitimate investigations of fraud, set a bad precedent and damage the committee’s credibility. 

“There is an obvious political agenda here, I believe, and I hope that we will put an end to infringing on states’ rights so that our AGs can conduct their rightful enforcement of the law,” Tonko said. 

Read the full story at Huffington Post.