Climate Realists Fight AGs’ Fishing Expedition

Climate Realists Fight AGs’
Fishing Expedition

by H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. is a Heartland research fellow on
environmental policy and managing

Climate Change Weekly #211

In the Climate Change Weekly released April 5 (CCW 209), I discussed the press conference held by a group of state attorneys general (AG), led by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, threatening investigations and possible prosecutions of climate skeptics for speaking their mind. Just days after I wrote that article, on April 7, a subpoena was served on the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) by Claude Walker, attorney general of the U.S. Virgin Islands. The subpoena demands CEI produce emails, statements, drafts, and other documents regarding its work on climate change and energy policy, including private donor information, from 1997 through 2007. Walker gave CEI until April 30, 2016 to produce this decades’ worth of material.

CEI responded swiftly and forcefully to the subpoena. CEI General Counsel Sam Kazman issued a statement saying, “CEI will vigorously fight to quash this subpoena. It is an affront to our First Amendment rights of free speech and association for Attorney General Walker to bring such intimidating demands against a nonprofit group. If Walker and his allies succeed, the real victims will be all Americans, whose access to affordable energy will be hit by one costly regulation after another, while scientific and policy debates are wiped out one subpoena at a time.”

Shortly after CEI received its subpoena, DCI Group, a Washington, DC-based public relations and lobbying firm that has had fossil fuel industry clients, became the third organization to receive subpoenas from the Virgin Islands’ AG, joining CEI and Exxon, which previously had been served subpoenas from Schneiderman and Walker.

These subpoenas are a fishing expedition with no hope of finding anything remotely illegal since it is not illegal to fund climate research or debate climate science or policy. This harassment is an attempt to silence critics of climate alarmism and the policies of the Obama administration and various states.

Interestingly, using Vermont’s public records law, the Energy & Environment Legal Institute (EELI) has discovered evidence the state AGs had been collaborating with radical anti-fossil-fuel groups who provided information and strategy advice to the AGs while urging them to pursue litigation against their political opponents. The documents also show the AGs actively sought to hide the anti-fossil-fuel groups’ involvement. EELI’s executive director, Craig Richardson, said in a press release, “These emails strongly suggest the financial motive for AGs to pursue their political opponents, not content with merely silencing and scaring away support for those who dare disagree with their extreme global warming agenda. Alarmingly, government officials are actively trying to cover up their coordination by using a Common Interest Agreement, even to claw back records already circulated, which another attorney general properly objected to as violating state law.”

The Heartland Institute, like CEI, has long been a champion of sound climate science and is a leader in the fight against flawed, dangerous, climate policies. Although I don’t’ relish the thought of Heartland being entangled in misguided and ultimately costly litigation, I have been surprised Heartland has yet to be served with a similar subpoena. It brings to mind the situation of Henry David Thoreau when jailed for the act of civil disobedience for failing to pay poll taxes. Thoreau felt the poll tax was unjust and used to support unjust policies and causes. Ralph Waldo Emerson, a fellow writer, mentor, and friend, reportedly visited Thoreau in jail asking, “Henry, what are you doing in there?” Thoreau replied, “Waldo, the question is what are you doing out there?”

While I’m glad we are not party to a lawsuit, I’m left asking, “Why not us?”

— H. Sterling Burnett

SOURCES: Competitive Enterprise Institute; Financial Times; and Energy & Environment Legal Institute

posted 09 April 2016

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