Texas Judge Puts New York AG On Defensive Over Exxon Probe

REUTERS/Mike Segar

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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A Texas judge delivered a withering blow Wednesday against the attorneys general spearheading a years-long investigation into ExxonMobil’s climate research.

Judge Ed Kinkeade peppered lawyers for New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Massachusetts counterpart, Maura Healey, with questions implying their lengthy crusade is a politically motivated move to garner media attention. He eventually remanded the AG’s case to New York, where the bulk of probes emanated.

Kinkeade believed the New York District Court was the appropriate venue to hear the case because “a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred” in New York City at a now-infamous 2016 press conference attended by former Vice President Al Gore.

The court’s questions touched on criticisms leveled against Schneiderman in the past.

“Are the two attorneys general trying to further their political agendas by using the vast power of the government to silence the voices of all those who disagree with them?” Kinkeade asked, referring to the AG’s environmental leanings, as well as their connections to wealthy environmentalists.

Schneiderman’s initial probes were based on reports by liberal-leaning media outlets InsideClimate News and Columbia University, which claim Exxon has known the risks of global warming for decades but kept such knowledge under wraps.

The probes ushered in a slew of inquiries from other AGs, the bulk of whom have since dropped their pursuits. Many of the lawmen bailed on the campaign out of concern Schneiderman was pushing an agenda.

Conservative group E&E Legal Institute released internal emails between AGs in March, 2016, suggesting the anti-Exxon ranks were frayed, namely because of the New York lawman’s behavior.

One email indicates some attorneys general offices asked Schneiderman to back off going after Exxon. They were also critical of his effort to bring Exxon and the others up on racketeering charges.

The media, for their part, have applauded ICN in the past despite the fact the outlet’s chief benefactor, the billionaire Rockefeller Family Fund (RFF), colluded with several environmentalist groups to take the oil company.

Kinkeade said using ICN and Columba University’s reportage as a basis for an investigation is problematic, considering the partisan nature of the outlets. He argued ICN is an active participant in the campaign against Exxon.

“The Court is uncertain if it is common practice for attorneys general to begin to investigate a company after reading an article that accuses a company of possibly committing a wrongdoing decades ago,” he said, adding that Exxon’s decision in 2006 to acknowledge the effect rising greenhouse gasses have on the climate does not bode well for the AG’s argument.

Schneiderman spokeswoman, Amy Spitalnick, for her part, criticized Kineade’s judgement as riddled with factual errors and oil industry spin, but said he was correct to remand the case. Still, the Texas court’s double edged decision comes at a bad time for Schneiderman, especially after The Daily Caller News Foundation obtained emails last week showing the New York Democrat’s AG office has used private emails in the past for business.

The Empire State AG’s assistant attorney general, Lem Srolovic, used his persona email account in 2012 to prepare for a meeting with environmental organizations. His memo raises questions about how often the NY office uses personal emails for professional meetings.

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