Skeptics Strike Back — GOP Reps Investigate AGs, Eco-Activists Targeting Global Warming Skeptics

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Michael Bastasch Contributor
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House Republicans are pushing back against state attorneys general and environmentalists’ actions to target ExxonMobil, along with dozens of conservative think tanks and scientists, for questioning global warming.

States attorneys general are working with environmental groups to punish Exxon for allegedly covering up global warming science, and these mostly Democratic prosecutors are also using their Exxon probe to target groups and individuals skeptical of global warming.

Now, GOP congressmen are pushing back against what they call an attempt by liberals to silence their political opponents.

“On March 29, 2016, you and other state attorneys general – the self-proclaimed ‘Green 20’ – announced that you were cooperating on an unprecedented effort against those who have questioned the causes, magnitude, or best ways to address climate change,” Republicans on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, led by Texas Rep. [crscore]Lamar Smith[/crscore], wrote in letters to 20 state AGs and eight environmental groups.

Republicans are responding to state attorneys general who secretly met with environmental activists in late March. After that meeting, some AGs announced they would investigate Exxon for the ultimate eco-sin: funding groups skeptical of global warming while selling oil they knew would exacerbate warming.

U.S. Virgin Islands AG Claude Walker escalated the investigation by subpoenaing the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a libertarian think tank known for challenging federal regulations and liberal activism, in April. CEI has fought back, and Walker was eventually forced to withdraw his subpoena.

So far, the AGs of California, Massachusetts, New York and the Virgin Islands are investigating Exxon. House Republicans, however, are furious with these mostly Democratic AGs for targeting groups that disagree with them over a scientific question.

“The Committee is concerned that these efforts to silence speech are based on political theater rather than legal or scientific arguments, and that they run counter to an attorney general’s duty to serve ‘as the guardian of the legal rights of the citizens’ and to ‘assert, protect, and defend the rights of the people,’” Smith and fellow Republicans wrote.

House Republicans aren’t alone pushing back against Walker and other AGs. Texas AG Ken Paxton and Alabama AG Luther Strange have intervened in a suit Exxon filed against Walker to quash his subpoena.

“This is a fishing expedition, we feel like he’d have better luck fishing off the Virgin Islands, not in Texas,” Paxton said.

The two Republican AGs argue Walker is violating Exxon’s constitutional rights by subpoenaing the company, which has no assets or employees in the Virgin Islands, for a scientific disagreement. Paxton and Strange also argue Walker’s use of a private class action law firm to handle the probe violates Exxon’s due process rights.

“They have every right to have their opinions on climate change. In my opinion you cross the line when you start prosecuting individuals for disagreeing with you,” he said.

New York AG Eric Schneiderman was the first to launch an investigation into Exxon, based on reporting from liberal reporters at InsideClimate News and Columbia University. Both of those newsgroups are funded, rather ironically, by the Rockefeller heirs — their foundations got letters from House Republicans.

Schneiderman’s office sharply criticized Republicans for sending out letters, saying it “appear to be part of a multi-pronged media campaign funded by the fossil fuel industry aimed at suppressing the free exchange of ideas among scientists, academics and responsible law enforcement.”

“It is remarkable that a do-nothing Congress that has refused to take any action on climate change is now attempting to disrupt this important investigation into potential corporate malfeasance,” Schneiderman’s press secretary said in a statement to The Hill.

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