Internal emails reveal attorneys general are worried investigations of ExxonMobil for its global warming stance is an exercise in “rhetorical overreach.”
Emails released by conservative legal group Energy & Environmental Legal Institute (E&E Legal) show state attorneys general are not in lockstep with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s investigation into Exxon that’s ensnared groups labeled as skeptical of man-made global warming by environmental activists.
Internal concerns began to flare up after Schneiderman’s press office released a statement in March that announced “[a]n unprecedented coalition of top law enforcement officials committed to aggressively protecting and building upon the recent progress the United States has made in combating climate change.”
One email indicates some attorneys general offices asked Schneiderman to back off going after Exxon. They were also critical of Schneiderman’s effort to bring Exxon and the others up on racketeering charges.
“I just returned from the evening’s activities. I will update you tomorrow but clearly Eric is himself the wild card for all,” Iowa’s Deputy Attorney General Tam Ormiston wrote in an email to his communications director after attending a meeting with Schneiderman.
E&E Legal, for its part, described the emails as an example of why Schneiderman’s probes were ill conceived.
“These emails help explain why Schnederman found himself going from seventeen doppelgangers one day, to being most completely alone within mere weeks of his bombastic ‘publicity stunt’ press conference with former Vice President Gore,” Chris Horner, Senior Legal Fellow for E&E Legal, said in a press statement Wednesday.
Schneiderman began his Exxon investigation in November, which, according to a New York Times report at the time, was “demanding extensive financial records, emails and other documents” from the oil producer dating all the way back to the 1970s. The New York attorney general also demanded information on global warming skeptic groups Exxon had once helped fund.
The attorneys’ general criticisms come as a result of a September investigation of ExxonMobil conducted by InsideClimate News and others. The investigation found that Exxon had allegedly played fast and loose with information concerning global warming. Schneiderman and his cohorts have continued to hype the effort against Exxon over the past several months.
The announcement made it appear as though there was widespread support for the investigations among U.S. attorneys general, yet the emails appear to show attorneys general blanching at the investigations. Media reports have mirrored much of the email’s content.
Politico reported on some of the concerns in July.
“A coalition of Democratic attorneys general on Tuesday promised new scrutiny of the fossil fuel industry, but most fell short of committing to investigations into whether companies like ExxonMobil deceived the public about the threat of climate change,” Politico reported at the time.
Some legal analysts are arguing that the investigation is an abuse of the attorney general’s extraordinary powers.
The Exxon subpoena into the company’s knowledge about internal climate change reports is an abuse of extraordinary powers. It allowed attorneys general (AGs) to subpoena private documents without either obtaining a court order or filing a complaint, Merritt Fox, a professor of law at Columbia Law School, wrote Monday at National Law Journal.
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