Press Release

Welch, Merkley, Warren, and Sanders Raise Concerns of Potential Greenwashing in Exxon and Chevron Mergers, Push SEC to Consider Investigating Environmental Commitments in Merger Deals 

Mar 5, 2024

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) sent a letter to U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chair Gary Gensler raising concerns of potential greenwashing in ExxonMobil’s acquisition of Pioneer Natural Resources (Pioneer) and Chevron Corporation’s acquisition of Hess Corporation, despite both companies’ public commitments to key climate goals. The Senators urged the SEC to clarify its investigative practices during mergers for firms that make climate pledges. 

This comes as the SEC is reportedly considering issuing a ruling in the coming days that could roll back proposed greenhouse gas emissions disclosure regulations for large companies and corporations. 

“Exxon and Chevron have made public pledges and statements about their plans to reduce emissions and combat climate change. Both Exxon and Chevron have publicly supported the Paris Agreement, which aims to reach net zero emissions by 2050. The companies say they have taken and plan to take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to meet these goals,” wrote the Senators

“However, Exxon and Chevron’s past investment and capital expenditure trends and these recent mergers have illustrated that both companies are committed to investing in new oil and gas supply. Exxon and Chevron both plan to rely heavily on carbon removal technologies and offsets to reach net zero instead of spending that money on decarbonizing, a tactic the IEA thinks is not guaranteed to achieve net zero emissions. Altogether, these actions suggest that despite Exxon and Chevron’s professed support for the Paris Agreement, they are not taking adequate action to achieve goals included in the Agreement,” the Senators continued

“In response to significant investor concerns over corporate greenwashing and investor demand for higher quality climate-related information, the SEC has recently taken steps to protect investors from deceptive climate disclosures. For example, the SEC created the Enforcement Task Force Focused on Climate and ESG Issues in order to curb greenwashing efforts by issuers and investment companies. In addition, the SEC has also developed a proposed rule to Enhance and Standardize Climate-Related Disclosures for Investors. However, more must be done to ensure that investors receive clear and accurate information about the potential impact of mergers and acquisitions on companies’ climate goals,” the Senators concluded

In October, ExxonMobil and Chevron, the first and second largest oil companies in the United States, entered deals to buy oil competitors to continue their production of oil and natural gas. Exxon agreed to buy Pioneer Natural Resources for $60 billion, while Chevron announced plans to purchase Hess for $53 billion. The announcements come as the International Energy Agency reported that the world’s oil, gas, and coal demand must peak by 2030. 

The acquisitions, which would further expand the companies’ greenhouse gas production and contradict the companies’ commitments to climate change mitigation efforts. Currently, Exxon Mobil and Chevron face lawsuits for climate change-related damages across the country. 

The letter is endorsed by Americans for Financial Reform and Public Citizen. 

Read and download the full text of the letter.