State AGs Tried to Hide Climate Probe Geared to Punish Fossil Fuel Companies

August 4, 2016

Eighteen liberal state attorneys general signed a pact in May to keep a joint investigation of Exxon Mobil Corp. and attempts to punish other fossil fuel companies over climate change issues secret, according to documents obtained by a free market think tank.

The Energy & Environment Legal Institute obtained a copy of the agreement through public-records litigation with the District of Columbia, which is a part of the pact along with 15 states.

The 18 attorneys general, led by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D.), are fighting climate change by pursuing "investigations of representations made by companies to investors, consumers, and the public regarding fossil fuels, renewable energy, and climate change."

The "Climate Change Coalition Common Interest Agreement" aims to minimize public disclosures of their climate probe and says officials involved in the investigation should "refuse to disclose any shared information unless required by law."

The attorneys general are targeting Exxon but said they might go after other companies if they felt they are delaying action to fight climate change, according to the report.

New York state’s attorney’s general office told Reuters that confidentiality agreements are used often and are routine practice during a multi-state investigation.

"This is far less a proper common interest agreement than a sweeping cloak of secrecy, one this ‘informal coalition’ is trying to cast over all discussions of their use of law enforcement to impose the ‘climate’ agenda. Including with outside activists and even donors," Chris Horner, a lawyer at the E&E Legal Institute, said in a statement.

The general counsel at E&E Legal, David W. Schnare, lambasted the agreement’s content and secrecy.

"It’s baffling that these AGs feel they can trample on their own states’ public records laws," he said, according to the Hill. "If they truly believe that they are engaged in anything other than a purely political campaign, they should have no problem explaining to the public what they are doing and subjecting their activities to the scrutiny their legislatures demanded."