The weird partisan makeup of New York’s state legislature could toss a big wrench in the push to keep afloat former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s climate crusade against energy companies.
Schneiderman’s decision to resign following reports he physically abused four women could potentially throw into disarray a years-long AG-lead pursuit against energy providers. New York’s conservative-tilted Senate could potentially put a screeching halt to any future climate litigation.
A joint session of the New York State Assembly, which is overwhelmingly Democratic, and New York’s largely conservative Senate are responsible for choosing Schneiderman’s interim replacement. Republicans held the state Senate because of a group of eight Democrats who caucused with the GOP.
The coalition called the Independent Democratic Conference officially dissolved in April as Democrats sought to pass liberal legislation. Democratic Sen. Simcha Felder of New York, who is from a conservative Brooklyn district, will stay with the GOP and give the Republican caucus a thin 32-to-31 majority in the chamber. His decision to stay could determine the political makeup of the temporary AG.
New Yorkers will elect a new AG to serve a four-year term come November. A Democratic base fueled by anti-Trump mania might make it difficult for a Republican candidate to pull an upset win in an overwhelming blue state. The acting AG is Barbara Underwood, a Democrat who was appointed New York’s solicitor general in 2007. She will helm the ship until the legislature makes a decision.
The climate crusade lost its liberal lion, but Schneiderman’s absence probably won’t stop future litigation, Chris Horner, a senior attorney with E&E Legal, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“It’s true that municipalities have lately joined the same plaintiffs’ lawyers and activists in the scheme, in what other public record productions suggest was part of a long-planned progression,” Horner said, referring to a spate of California cities suing oil producers over global warming.
But the New York Democrat’s resignation will have an effect, said Horner, who has issued several public record requests for Schneiderman’s emails. “Schneiderman was plainly the juice behind this abusive scheme and, while the deep pockets behind it remain engaged, their lead abuser is out of the picture.”
Other attorneys are not so dour. “I don’t think it will make much difference in how the N.Y. AG’s office will handle the case,” Michael Gerrard, director of Columbia Law School’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, said in an interview Wednesday with The Washington Post. “They haven’t lost any of the lawyers who are working on the cases.”
Schneiderman was the chief participant in a slew of lawsuits against ExxonMobil, President Donald Trump’s deregulatory agenda, among other climate-related issues. Prior to resigning, he joined 14 other attorneys general in suing the EPA for not issuing regulations targeting emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas activists contribute to man-made climate change.
New York took 55 legal actions during Schneiderman’s leadership, a sum tied with California for the most of any state, according to data from the New York University Law School’s State Energy and Environmental Impact Center, which was crafted in 2017 to escalate attacks against Trump’s regulatory rollback.