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ExxonMobil has been exposed for running a “behind the scenes” campaign against any laws to restrict plastics or PFAS known as forever chemicals. In an undercover video obtained by Greenpeace’s Unearthed, a senior figure at Exxon revealed how the oil giant is secretly lobbying under U.S. trade groups to avoid public association.
American oil giant Exxon’s “playbook” has been exposed by reporters at Greenpeace’s Unearthed. The company’s senior federal relations director Keith McCoy was taped by an undercover reporter posing as a headhunter detailing the dirty tricks the company was using to lobby against Biden’s climate plans.
These include preventing legislation that would restrict plastic production and regulations over PFAS. PFAS are known as forever chemicals because they never degrade in the environment and accumulate in human bodies with serious health impacts. A large number of consumer products contain PFAS, from fast food packaging to cosmetics.
Influencing policy in secret
During the bombshell video, McCoy admitted to working “under the guise” of trade groups like the American Petroleum Institute to lobby against PFAS regulation.
Of particular focus for Exxon was getting rid of its association with toxic chemicals, especially as the public awareness of the harms of PFAS grows. This class of chemicals have been linked to various cancers, birth defects, developmental issues and liver damage. Recently, scientists discovered traces of PFAS in all samples of U.S. mothers’ breast milk.
Health professionals have since called on a global phase-out of PFAS and tighter regulations over the manufacturers of these chemicals.
McCoy was videoed saying that the secret campaign is working to stop the public from knowing “that ExxonMobil manufactured those chemicals” and “uses those chemicals”.
“We use it in our firefighting equipment, so we have pushed our [trade] associations to be out front on that,” he said. McCoy himself admitted to knowing that PFAS “never, never deteriorate”.
Going against Biden’s climate agenda
All of this is a part of the oil giant’s plan to prevent the Biden administration from achieving its environmental targets, one of which is to clamp down on plastic production in the U.S. Plastics are not only a major source of waste and pollution, it requires huge amounts of oil, making it a major greenhouse gas emitter.
“You want to get smart on it,” McCoy said about blocking plastic regulations. “Because you know it’s coming.”
Talking more about how the oil giant is staving off plastic policies discreetly, McCoy said their strategy will be the same as its anti-climate approach. “When climate change came…you started to have conversations to say ‘well you can’t completely change the electric grid from coal and gas into wind and here’s why’.”
“It’s the same conversation, ‘you can’t ban plastics because here’s why’,” he continued.
‘Hearing it right from the horse’s mouth’
In response to the exposé, Exxon initially denied to the Unearthed team that the company used any PFAS. It later clarified to Channel 4 News that they do use forever chemicals in “some of our products” and in the firefighting foams they purchase.
California state congressman Alan Lowenthal told Unearthed reporters that their findings of “delay, deny and distract tactics” was unsurprising. “[These] have been used by these industries for decades…just as the tobacco industry did decades before.”
But what was different this time round, said Lowenthal, was that we are now “hearing it right from the horse’s mouth.”
“At the end of the day it all comes down to money. These industries are more than willing to sacrifice public health, frontline communities, and our environment for profit.”
Lead image courtesy of ExxonMobil.