Warren’s New Plan Would Punish Exxon for Lying to Regulators

Image: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

Yesterday, presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren released a plan (!) calling for companies who have misled federal regulators to be prosecuted under a new corporate perjury law. She also singled out Exxon as her example, tying in climate change to her signature anti-corruption platform. As Climate Liability News explained,

  • Warren’s “Fighting Corporate Perjury” plan would allow corporate officers to be held criminally liable for providing false or misleading information, including by using industry-funded studies, to regulatory agencies.
  • The plan also would prohibit the use of non-peer-reviewed studies that are found to have a conflict of interest in federal rulemaking and related court challenges.
  • She called for the creation of a new Office of the Public Advocate, which would help the public participate in regulatory and legal proceedings.

Structural Change Indeed: Warren explains that big corporate interests often use tactics to gum up the regulatory process,

“That’s because when federal agencies like the EPA propose new regulations, they are generally required to solicit public input on proposed rules from the public through a process called “notice and comment.” The notice and comment process is important: It’s supposed to give the public a chance to weigh in on proposed regulations and help the agency solicit expert feedback, and agencies are legally required to respond to these comments. And even where the agency responds, if a company submits junk science to try and block the rule from happening, right-wing judges could point to those junk studies later on and use them as an excuse for invalidating the new rule.”

Why This Matters: Firstly what’s great about this plan is that Warren’s proposed Office of the Public Advocate would enable citizens to become more engaged in the rulemaking process, taking power away from big corporate lobbies.

Secondly, it’s critical in politics to tie climate change to all other top-level issues–in this instance, corruption. The issue of climate change cannot become a box to check for candidates with an isolated plan when in reality the climate crisis should be considered in all plans, from healthcare to immigration. For instance, Mayor Pete Buttigieg‘s recent veterans plan could have addressed climate issues like requiring the VA to update its climate assessments or how we clean up PFAS contamination on military bases. Voters need to know that presidential candidates are willing to make climate action a day 1 priority should they be elected. 

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