Attorney General Loretta Lynch acknowledged Wednesday that there have been discussions within the Department of Justice about possibly pursuing civil action against so-called climate change deniers.
“This matter has been discussed. We have received information about it and have referred it to the FBI to consider whether or not it meets the criteria for which we could take action on,” Lynch said at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Justice Department operations.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) raised the issue, drawing a comparison between possible civil action against climate change deniers and civil action that the Clinton administration pursued against the tobacco industry for claiming that the science behind the dangers of tobacco was unsettled.
“The similarities between the mischief of the tobacco industry pretending that the science of tobacco’s dangers was unsettled and the fossil fuel industry pretending that the science of carbon emissions’ dangers is unsettled has been remarked on widely, particularly by those who study the climate denial apparatus that the fossil fuel industry has erected,” Whitehouse said.
“Under President Clinton, the Department of Justice brought and won a civil RICO action against the tobacco industry for its fraud. Under President Obama, the Department of Justice has done nothing so far about the climate denial scheme,” Whitehouse added.
“A request for action by the Department of Justice has been referred by you to the FBI. My question to you is other than civil forfeitures and matters attendant to a criminal case, are there other circumstances in which a civil matter under the authority of the Department of Justice has been referred to the FBI?” he asked.