Skip to content

Democratic Attorneys General Refuse To Join Rockefeller-Backed Climate Investigation

|
Steve Everley, Energy Indepth

A press conference today featuring Al Gore and more than a dozen state attorneys general was expected to reveal new state-level investigations of U.S. energy companies regarding climate change. But the vast majority of AGs standing on stage refused to join such an effort, signaling a lack of interest in wasting their own states’ resources.

Last year, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced that he had launched an investigation into fossil fuel companies regarding what the New York Times called “possible climate change lies.” The investigation was based entirely on a series of controversial articles written by researchers at the Columbia School of Journalism and InsideClimate News, which selectively pulled statements from company documents to suggest Exxon Mobil’s public policy advocacy was inconsistent with its own research.

Unsurprisingly, environmental activists embraced the articles, and even began an online campaign – complete with the hash tag #ExxonKnew on Twitter – to pressure state and federal officials to launch investigations into so-called “climate denial.” To date, they have succeeded in convincing Schneiderman as well as the attorneys general for California and Massachusetts.

But Democratic attorneys general from New Mexico, Washington, D.C., Rhode Island, Maine, Illinois, Virginia, Maryland, Connecticut, and Vermont – all of whom stood on the stage next to Al Gore today – refused to announce that they would be launching their own investigations. In fact, reporters covering the event struggled to find much of anything new in what the officials were promising. The Huffington Post even conceded that the AGs “were vague on what exactly they have planned.”

Editorial boards across the country have criticized the #ExxonKnew campaign as an attempt to “stamp out all disagreement,” while also worrying about the legal precedent of pursuing “criminal penalties over those involved in a scientific debate.” An editorial from Bloomberg News called Schneiderman’s investigation a “dangerous arrogation of power.”

Legal experts have also questioned the merits of New York’s investigation. John Coffee, a law professor at Columbia University, told the New York Times that a “leading obstacle [to a conviction] would be the First Amendment, as climate change is a matter of robust public debate.”

Full post