House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.), the chairwoman of the panel’s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, floated the possibility of a subpoena if a consulting firm does not produce documents relating to its marketing work for fossil fuel companies.
In the letter, Grijalva and Porter’s second since June, they stated that FTI Consulting has yet to respond to their request. The letter was one of several, with other recipients including Story Partners, DDC Advocacy, Blue Advertising and Singer Associates as well as the American Petroleum Institute.
In the second letter, the lawmakers accused the company of deliberately stonewalling them by asserting privileges and confidentiality agreements protecting the clients in question. However, the lawmakers claimed that they declined to outline the nature of those privileges.
Over a month after the first consultation, FTI told the committee half of its unnamed clients had refused to consent to disclosing the information, according to the letter.
“FTI has not wavered in its blanket refusal to provide even the most basic information about its clients or descriptions of the grounds for its refusal beyond the vaguest assertions of confidentiality and privileges,” Grijalva and Porter wrote. “FTI has provided no indication that this obstruction of congressional oversight will come to an end voluntarily.”
Grijalva and Porter added that “confidentiality concerns are a consideration in congressional oversight efforts, but do not preclude Congress from receiving requested documents.” They added that they will begin the subpoena process if they have not received the requested documents by next Wednesday.
“Our company takes the Subcommittee’s request very seriously. We continue to be in regular contact with subcommittee staff as we progress our efforts to be responsive to the chair’s request in a manner consistent with our legal obligations to preserve our clients’ confidentiality and privileges,” an FTI spokesperson told The Hill in a statement.
In the original June letter, Grijalva cited an undercover video obtained last summer by a Greenpeace activist in which Exxon Mobil lobbyist Keith McCoy said the company cast doubt on the scientific reality of climate change by enlisting the aid of “shadow groups.”
“Thanks to the accidental truth-telling by the former ExxonMobil lobbyist, we know there is a lot to uncover about the ways fossil fuel companies spread disinformation and lies about climate change,” Grijalva wrote at the time.
Updated at 5:03 p.m.