Energy

Enviros Push Investigation Into Exxon, Freak Out When They Might Get Subpoenaed

(REUTERS/Yves Herman

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Michael Bastasch Energy Editor
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Two environmental groups backing investigations into ExxonMobil and conservative think tanks by some states attorneys general are furious they’ve been threatened with a subpoena by federal lawmakers.

Greenpeace and 350.org activists were so mad with House Republicans they sent a letter back demanding lawmakers disclose their ties to Exxon, other oil companies and conservtive think tanks. Activists also argued, rather ironically, such requests violate their First Amendment rights.

“As we have explained in detail in our prior letters to the Committee, the Committee’s requests violate basic First Amendment protections, fall outside the proper jurisdiction of the Committee, and are impermissibly vague, overbroad, and burdensome,” Greenpeace and 350.org wrote to Texas Republican Rep. Lamar Smith, the chairman of the House science committee.

Environmentalists are reacting to previous letters sent to them by Smith and his colleagues, asking activists to voluntarily turn over communications regarding state attorneys general investigations into Exxon’s global warming stance.

Last week, Smith threatened to use his committee’s subpoena power to compel Greenpeace, 350.org and other environmental groups to turn over documents related to the Exxon probe. Smith also requested documents from state AG offices investigating Exxon.

Greenpeace and 350.org have been major proponents of investigating Exxon for allegely trying to cover up global warming science, misleading company shareholders and the public. State prosecutors’ subpoenas have not only targeted the oil giant, they’ve also demanded records from libertarian and conservative thinks.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), for example, received a subpoena from U.S. Virgin Islands AG Claude Walker as part of an effort by several AGs to investigate Exxon. CEI, a libertarian think tank, fought back and argued the subpoena violated their First Amendment rights.

It wasn’t long after CEI got subpoenaed that other conservative groups and Republican lawyers argued Walker and other AGs were violating free speech rights of those they were investigating, including Exxon.

“Exxon is a resident of the state of Texas, and we felt this was an attack on their first amendment rights,” Texas Republican AG Ken Paxton said after he and Alabama’s AG filed court briefs in support of Exxon.

“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.

Walker and New York AG Eric Schneiderman explicitly rejected these arguments, saying free speech rights don’t apply to fraud, which is what they accused Exxon of committing.

Greenpeace and 350.org have also accused Exxon of peddling “fraud” by supposedly knowing about the dangers of global warming while funding skeptic groups. They also cheered investigations into Exxon, which led to subpoenas.

Now, environmentalists are arguing their First Amendment rights are being infringed by House Republicans asking for documents about each activist group’s role in working behind the scenes to investigate Exxon.

“If Committee Members are truly concerned about the right of scientists to conduct scientific why did the Chair of the Committee previously subpoena the chief of NOAA, a scientist herself, demanding that her agency turn over thousands of pages of emails and communications?”Greenpeace and 350.org responded.

“How is this not chilling speech?” the groups wrote.

Update: House science committee just issued subpoenas to eight environmental groups and two AG offices. Greenpeace and 350.org were among them.

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