(CNSNews.com) – The state attorneys general of New York and Massachusetts and eight environmental groups that have accused climate change skeptics of lying to the public are now themselves the subject of a congressional probe.
The House Science, Space and Technology Committee issued subpoenas to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, and the eight green groups after they missed a July 13 deadline to turn over documents related to their “coordinated” attack on climate change skeptics, chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) announced Wednesday.
The subpoenas ordered them to turn over documents “related to coordinated efforts to deprive companies, nonprofit organizations, scientists and scholars of their First Amendment rights,” according to a committee press release.
“The attorneys general have appointed themselves to decide what is valid and what is invalid regarding climate change,” Smith said at a press conference. “The attorneys general are pursuing a political agenda at the expense of scientists’ right to free speech.”
In a July 6 letter to Schneiderman, Smith characterized the New York attorney general’s previous refusal to provide the requested documents as “a deliberate attempt to mask the true purpose of your investigation and mischaracterize the Committee’s oversight.”
A similar letter was sent to Healey.
Subpoenas were also sent to attorneys representing the Union of Concerned Scientists, Greenpeace and 350.org, the Climate Accountability Institute, the Climate Reality Project, the Rockefeller Family Fund and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and the Global Warming Legal Action Project requesting documents relating to the “assistance provided to the attorneys general” in their investigations of climate change skeptics.
Emails obtained under open records laws by the Energy & Environment Legal Institute show that members of Schneiderman’s staff secretly worked with environmental activists to go after companies and groups that publicly challenged their climate change claims, even though being a “climate denier” is protected speech under the First Amendment.
University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds pointed out that under federal law, it is a felony “for two or more persons to agree together to injure, threaten, or intimidate a person … in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him/her by the Constitution or the laws of the United States.”
However, a spokesman for Schneiderman, who launched an investigation of ExxonMobil last November into whether the oil company lied to the public about the risks of climate change, said in a statement that “this committee has no authority to interfere with these state law enforcement investigations, and whether they issue a subpoena or not, this Attorney General will not be intimidated or deterred from ensuring that every New Yorker receives the full protection of state laws.”
At a March 29 press conference in New York with former Vice President Al Gore, Schneiderman announced that “an unprecedented coalition” of state attorneys general from 18 states, the District of Columbia, and the Virgin Islands, called AGs United For Clean Power, was taking legal action against companies like ExxonMobil that opposed President Obama’s Clean Power Plan and challenged the idea that human activity is causing catastrophic global warming.
Citing what he called the “financial and market risks posed by climate change,” Schneiderman said that “we are pursuing this as any other fraud matter.”
“We know that they paid millions of dollars to support organizations that put out propaganda denying that we can predict or measure the effects of fossil fuels on our climate or even denying that climate change was happening,” he said.
“We cannot continue to allow the fossil fuel industry or any industry to treat our atmosphere like an open sewer or mislead the public about the impact they have on the health of our people and the health of our planet,” agreed Gore.
However, according to the most recent satellite data compiled by Dr. Roy Spencer at the University of Alabama/Huntsville, the Earth’s average tropospheric temperature is “rapidly cooling” – with “a record fast 2-month cooling of -0.56 deg. C.” reported in June.
“The rapid cooling is from the weakening El Nino and approaching La Nina conditions by mid-summer or early fall,” he noted.
The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) was one of the targets of dozens of subpoenas issued by U.S. Virgin Islands Attorney General Claude Walker, a member of the AG coalition.
CEI called Walker’s demand for ten years of documents relating to the think tank’s work on climate change “an intimidation campaign to criminalize speech and research on the climate debate, led by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and former Vice President Al Gore.”
On May 20, Walker withdrew his CEI subpoena after he was accused of abusing his power.
“His withdrawal only strengthens our claim that this subpoena was a constitutional outrage from the very beginning,” CEI general counsel Sam Kazman said. “This was an abuse of process, plain and simple, and we’re determined to see that Walker faces sanctions for an action whose illegality he refuses to recognize.”