Three environmental advocacy groups accused Chevron Corp. of "greenwashing" in a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission, accusing the U.S. oil major of "egregiously misleading consumers" by overstating its investments in renewable energy and its efforts to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.
The groups — Greenpeace, Earthworks and Global Witness — said the March 16 filing was the first petition to ask the FTC to use its "Green Guides" against an oil and gas company accused of misleading consumers about the climate impact of its operations. The 2012 guidelines were designed to prevent companies from making environmental claims that mislead consumers.
The environmental groups also described the complaint as a test of how the FTC will enforce climate goals under the Biden administration. "This is new territory, and we don't know exactly what the result will be, but we feel like we have a strong case," Greenpeace spokesperson Ryan Schleeter said in an interview. "The difference between Chevron's public presentation of itself and what it has committed to ... is really wide."
The complaint pointed to Chevron's practice of marketing investments in clean energy sources that only make up a small part of the company's total business.
"No reasonable consumer who sees Chevron's advertisements would expect the size of its investments or the level at which Chevron generates clean energy to be as small as it is, relative to the overall size of Chevron's business," the groups said in the complaint.
The complaint also stated that Chevron misrepresents its efforts to promote racial equality and social justice while its "business operations exacerbate racial inequalities and disproportionately harm people of color."
Chevron dismissed the allegations in the FTC complaint as "frivolous."
"We engage in honest conversations about the energy transition," a Chevron spokesperson said in an emailed statement. "We believe the future of energy is lower carbon and are working to help the world achieve that goal. We are taking action to reduce the carbon intensity of our operations and assets, increase the use of renewables and offsets in support of our business and invest in low-carbon technologies to enable commercial solutions."
The FTC filing came days after Chevron announced a plan focused on delivering "higher returns, lower carbon." Chevron does not have net-zero emissions goals like some of its peers, but the company aims to reduce its carbon intensity by 2028 and to eliminate routine flaring by 2030.
Social justice law firm Richman Law & Policy is representing the environmental groups in the complaint.