Conservative group takes New York AG to court over climate probe

Washington Examiner reports on CEI's lawsuit against Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for withholding key documents related to ongoing climate investigations. 

The Competitive Enterprise Institute is filing the lawsuit in New York's Supreme Court against Attorney General Eric Schneiderman over an agreement his office entered into with other state AGs and climate activists this year in preparing to investigate Exxon Mobil and any groups the oil giant had discussions with about climate change.

Schneiderman and more than a dozen other Democratic attorney generals had pledged to investigate Exxon for fraud after several news outlets reported that the company buried data from its own scientists in the 1970s that showed its business would be significantly harmed by climate change. Exxon Mobil and the conservative group were subpoenaed by the attorneys general to hand over decades of correspondence related to global warming. Exxon refutes the allegations as false, and says it recognizes climate change and supports enacting carbon fees.

The "common interest agreement" signed by the attorneys general included a provision making all documents regarding the climate pledge to be marked confidential. That would keep all of those documents blocked from any Freedom of Information Act requests. In addition, the agreement would keep communications between the attorneys general and outside environmentalist groups secret.

"What is AG Schneiderman's office trying to hide?" said Sam Kazman, the Competitive Enterprise Institute's chief counsel.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute requested this summer that the documents be released, saying Schneiderman had no right to withhold the information. The attorney general denied their request. So the think tank is suing.

"None of the reasons Schneiderman claimed for withholding these documents are legitimate under New York law," Kazman said. "The public deserves to know what this AG, and the other AGs cooperating with him, agreed to when it came to targeting their political opponents, and that's why we sought the common interest agreement in the first place."

Kazman's group wants the state's high court to force Schneiderman to provide all of the documents that "mention or otherwise include the AGs for other states or territories, as well as certain environmental activists," CEI said. "CEI suspects these agreements may be a pretext for shielding documents from public disclosure."

The group has been successful in pushing back against the attorney generals' subpoenas, arguing that the climate investigation is a violation of their constitutional right to freedom of speech. The group was subpoenaed earlier this year by one of Schneiderman's cohorts from the Virgin Islands, who has since withdrawn it.

Read the full article at Washington Examiner