Enviro Group Hands GOP 1,300 Docs Related To Exxon Investigation

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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One of the environmental groups subpoenaed by a top House Republican forked over more than 1,300 documents related to an investigation into oil company Exxon Mobil.

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) sent a letter Thursday to Texas Rep. Lamar Smith stating that all he needed to know about its work with advocacy groups targeting the oil company was already in the public sphere.

Still, the group coughed up a treasure trove of documents related to the on-going probe into Exxon’s research on global warming.

UCS said it would not comply with the Republican’s subpoena, because the First Amendment protects its activities.

“The First Amendment unambiguously fosters and protects UCS’s ability to inform and petition government officials and to work with other advocacy organization (sic) to seek governmental action related to climate change,” the letter from the group’s attorney stated.

Smith issued subpoenas in July to Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and eight environmental groups, including UCS. The subpoenas focused on nonprofit groups for supposedly hiding information related to global warming.

The House Committee on Science, Space and Technology chairman wants any memos between the attorneys general and UCS and other liberal groups, because he believes they are coordinating efforts to take down the beleaguered oil company.

Schneiderman spearheaded investigations into Exxon based on reporting by liberal news outlets claiming the company “knew” of the dangers of global warming for decades while funding groups opposed to Democratic climate policies.

UCS’s attorney argued in the letter that the group is not required to comply with Smith’s subpoena, because the Texas Republican’s responsibility is probing how the government uses research dollars. It also argued Smith wants documents showing how it corresponds with attorneys general.

“It does not request documents relating to climate change scientists themselves (other than those in UCS), which would show the effects, or output, of these investigations, investigations that were not conducted by UCE, but by the attorneys general,” the letter says.

Legal analysts continue to argue that the investigation is an abuse of the attorney general’s extraordinary powers.

The investigation essentially allowed attorneys general 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 in September.

Fox, who is also an expert on financial law and securities, told a panel in June that the Martin Act, which allows New York’s head law enforcer to investigate and eventually prosecute companies for committing fraud, probably shouldn’t be used to punish Exxon.

But since information about global warming and its effects is already widely reported, according to Fox, then whatever data Exxon chose to hide or withhold was not “material,” or likely to affect the decision-making of its investors.

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