In New Hampshire, Democratic Presidential candidate Tom Steyer responds to 350 Action fellow about how he would hold the fossil fuel industry accountable.
July 30, 2019
Somersworth, NH – Rebecca Banlieu, 23, a fellow with 350 Action, asked Democratic candidate Tom Steyer at a voter meet and greet, about using Congress to investigate the fossil fuel industry’s role in using misinformation to stall climate action for decades. Steyer responded saying, “It’s important with corporations to make the point that there will be criminal sanctions here.”
In response, Rebecca Banlieu, 350 Action fellow, issued the following response:
“Steyer’s response to my question was a thoughtful one that models the kind of ambition we’re demanding from presidential candidates. The fossil fuel industry has misled the public and profited off of the climate crisis, and we need a leader who will hold the fossil fuel executives accountable for the devastating effects the climate crisis has had on our communities.”
Steyer, who just released his “justice-centered” climate plan did not explicitly outline a method to take on the fossil fuel industry beyond a promise to “stop fossil fuel use” in the framework. In his answer at the event, however, he connected the longstanding negligence and ruinous lobbying of the fossil fuel industry to the invulnerability of big corporations. Steyer highlighted how fossil fuel executives at companies like Exxon knew about the climate crisis. Steyer joins a mounting group of candidates who are committing to hold fossil fuel billionaires accountable for the climate crisis. Now, the call to #MakeThemPay is getting louder and louder. With the Day One Pledge, 350 Action is demanding 2020 Presidential candidates rise to the task of real climate leadership by making similar commitments.
Rebecca Banlieu: You mentioned going up against big corporations. When it comes to the fossil fuel industry, there’s a lot of evidence that they knew about the effects of climate change, but they continue to put profits ahead of the communities who are affected. So if elected, would you ask Congress to investigate the fossil fuel industry’s role in stalling climate action and profiting off of this?
Tom Steyer: So, remind me of your name?
Steyer: I think what Rebecca’s referring to is the fact that we have evidence that Exxon scientifically, as early as 1979, knew what was happening in terms of climate change and then did what the Tobacco companies did for decades, which was to pretend they didn’t know and to use their political power through lobbyists and donations to continue to make money and to put the whole world at risk. So I would not rely on Congress, I believe this is a question for the courts.
Because I think that it’s important with corporations to make the point that there will be criminal sanctions here. We’re not going to make Exxon pay a fine, we’re going to do that. I would definitely go after them, are you kidding me? Putting the whole world at risk, knowingly? For money?
There’s also a question that if you are a drug company selling heroine to young people around the country, knowing that, and lying about it and scheming about how to do it more. Why don’t you go to jail? You know, if someone sold $150 worth of heroine in San Francisco California on the street, they’d be liable to severe criminal prosecution, but if you sell $150 Million you’re not?
So when I think about this, there has to be–I look at the mortgage crisis. With people being defrauded intentionally out of their houses. And I say no one went to jail. I mean, people paid I think hundreds of billions in fines but nobody was criminally liable. You put three people in jail, and that would’ve changed the whole thing.
We are going to have to make people-being in a corporation does not give you the right to do anything you want to make money. You do not get to poison people in our society and kill them so you can be richer. Trust me, I will be tough on this.
Press Contact: Monica Mohapatra, 350 Action U.S. Communications Specialist, firstname.lastname@example.org