The probes against Exxon Mobil and others by a slew of Democratic attorneys general were done to protect the Obama administration’s climate rules, a conservative legal group said Tuesday.
A letter from New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell to Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller shows that the group of attorneys general investigations were meant to defend federal environmental regulations, according to the Energy and Environment Legal Institute (E&E Legal), a conservative legal group based in Washington, D.C.
The letter, which was obtained by E&E Legal, states that the attorneys general goal is “to highlight the importance of climate change to the citizens of our states, our work defending Clean Power Plan … and the formation of an Attorneys General climate change and energy coalition committed to working together to take effective investigative and legal steps to address the risks that climate change poses to all of our citizens.”
Schneiderman and the others are members of AGs United for Clean Power Coalition, a group that consists of 15 state attorneys general from California, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington State. Rounding out the group are the attorneys general of the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands.
The group is front-loaded with Democrats, with one exception. The Virgin Islands attorney general, Claude Walker, is an independent.
E&E Legal, which filed a lawsuit in July against Schneiderman over the probe, believes the letter is proof positive that the attorneys general conspired to use the power of the their offices to create a protective wall around President Barack Obama’s environmental rules.
“This letter makes inescapable the fact that the AGs’ goal was to defend and extend Obama’s environmental agenda,” Craig Richardson, E&E Legal executive director, told reporters. “That is a political cause, which the AGs seek to extend by improper means, circumventing the proper, democratic political process.”
The agreement between the attorneys general has come under intense scrutiny since its inception, especially among free speech and ethics advocacy groups.
The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT) filed a FOIA in May in hopes of unearthing details of the group’s activities. FACT’s executive director, Matthew Whitaker, called the investigation an “unlawful” and “blatant, Orwellian attack on the First Amendment’s right to free speech.”
Virgin Islands Attorney General Walker subpoenaed Exxon and the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free market group, to find out what the company and the group knew about the effects of greenhouse gas emissions on climate change. Walker eventually withdrew the subpoenas.
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