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Democratic Attorney Generals And Climate Activists Colluded On Prosecuting Dissenters, Emails Show

Valerie Richardson, The Washington Times

In the hours before they took the stage for their March 29 press conference, Democratic attorneys general received a secret briefing from two top environmentalists on pursuing climate change dissenters.

Peter Frumhoff of the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Climate Accountability Institute’s Matt Pawa spent 45 minutes each providing talking points behind the scenes on “the imperative of taking action now” and “climate change litigation,” according to a cache of emails released over the weekend by the free market Energy & Environmental Legal Institute.

For climate change groups, the New York press event was the culmination of four years of planning and advocacy in support of an explosive proposition: using the legal system to link fossil fuel firms and others challenging the catastrophic global warming consensus to fraud and even racketeering, the emails and other documents show.

The effort paid off. At the press conference, which included former Vice President Al Gore, a coalition of 16 Democratic attorneys general and one independent — Virgin Islands Attorney General Claude E. Walker — announced that they would use the power of state government to explore legal avenues to challenge climate change dissent.

Four of the attorneys general have reportedly launched investigations into Exxon Mobil Corp., and Mr. Walker has issued a subpoena for 10 years worth of climate change documents and communications from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free market think tank.

Mr. Walker also issued a subpoena last month to Exxon Mobil, citing the territory’s laws against racketeering. The company filed a motion Wednesday to block the subpoena in Texas state court.

David Schnare, legal counsel for E&E, called on the coalition, operating under the name AGs United for Clean Power, to reveal its relationship with the climate change movement.

“We call on these AGs to immediately halt their investigation and lay out for the public the full extent of this collusion, producing all records or information provided them in briefings or other work with the outside activists, including those they are trying to keep secret through a Common Interest Agreement,” Mr. Schnare said in a Friday statement.

He highlighted a March 30 email from Mr. Pawa telling two members of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s staff about a call from a Wall Street Journal reporter about his attendance at the press conference.

Mr. Pawa asked, “What should I say if she asks if I attended? No comment?”

Lemuel Srolovic, environmental protection bureau chief for the New York attorney general, advised Mr. Pawa to say nothing about his participation.

“My ask is if you speak to the reporter, to not confirm that you attended or otherwise discuss the event,” Mr. Srolovic says in the email. […]

The push for legal action against climate change dissent dates back to June 2012 when climate groups held a workshop, Establishing Accountability for Climate Change Damages: Lessons from Tobacco Control, at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California.

Last year, a coalition of environmentalists and lawmakers led by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Rhode Island Democrat, petitioned the Justice Department to file a racketeering lawsuit against “corporations and other organizations that have knowingly deceived the American people about the risks of climate change.”

The collection of emails sheds new light on the close working relationship between the climate change movement and Democratic lawmakers.

The emails were obtained under the Vermont Public Records Law. Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell’s office helped Mr. Schneiderman’s staff organize the event.

In a March 30 email, Vermont Assistant Attorney General Scott Kline recommended changing the name of the Exxon/Fossil Fuel Company Investigations working group by removing the word “investigations.”

“Not all of the states have yet opened a formal investigation and there is some sensitivity here (and I suspect in some other states) to saying or indicating we have,” Mr. Kline said in an email to Mr. Srolovic.

He also recommended removing the word “progressive” from the “Climate Coalition of Attorneys General Pledge,” which originally stated, “We pledge to work together to fully enforce the State and federal laws that require progressive action on climate change and that prohibit false and misleading statements to the public, consumers and investors regarding climate change.”

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