A prominent constitutional lawyer has fired back against Democratic attorneys general pledging to investigate oil, coal and gas companies for not being alarmist enough about how global warming will impact their finances.
“We should all be concerned when state prosecutors announce that they will be targeting Americans for their views on controversial issues like climate change,” David Rivkin, Jr., a constitutional litigator who served in former Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush’s administrations, said in an emailed statement.
Rivkin was reacting to a pledge made by more than a dozen attorneys general from Democratic states calling for “aggressively protecting and building upon the recent progress” made by the Obama administration on global warming, including the embattled Clean Power Plan.
Democratic AGs are also “working together on key climate change-related initiatives, such as ongoing and potential investigations into whether fossil fuel companies misled investors and the public on the impact of climate change on their businesses,” according to a press release from the New York AG’s office.
New York AG Eric Schneiderman has already launched investigations into Peabody Energy, a coal company, and ExxonMobil, an oil company, over alleged misrepresentations of how these companies disclose the risks of global warming to their shareholders.
Now, the AGs of California, Massachusetts and the U.S. Virgin Islands have launched probes into how Exxon handled disclosing potential global warming risks of their operations to shareholders. All of these investigations are based on news reports from journalists funded by a left-wing nonprofit bent on getting institutions to divest from fossil fuel companies.
Reports by InsideClimate News and Columbia University claim Exxon knew of the dangers of global warming before it was well understood by other scientists, hid that knowledge from the public and then funded groups opposed to environmental regulations.
Rivkin says the charges against Exxon — and the fossil fuel industry in general — are part of an effort to silence those opposed to government regulations to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
“No prosecutor could ever win a conviction consistent with the First Amendment based on the attorney generals’ bogus climate ‘cover-up’ conspiracy,” Rivkin said. “The fact that this investigation was launched with a press conference confirms that the whole point is to intimidate and chill speech.”
“The parties responsible for this outrageous conduct can and should be held responsible,” he said.
Despite the constitutional concerns, Democratic AGs are determined to find Exxon guilty of some sort of malfeasance with regards to global warming — even if no one is really sure what that would be.
The AGs even invited former Vice President Al Gore to an event Tuesday announcing their campaign to prosecute skeptics.
“We cannot continue to allow the fossil fuel industry or any industry to treat our atmosphere like an open sewer or mislead the public about the impact they have on the health of our people and the health of our planet,” Gore said in a statement.
The AGs’ plan to go after groups that question global warming comes after Democrats in Congress called for fossil fuel companies to be prosecuted under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO — a law originally designed to go after criminal syndicates.
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