Liberal AGs Secretly Met w/ Climate Activists Before Launching Exxon Investigation

Brittany M. Hughes | April 18, 2016

Emails obtained by the Energy and Environment Legal Institute (EELI) under Vermont’s public records law show New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, a Democrat, and other state attorneys general and their staff secretly met with environmental activists before announcing their cooperative investigation into energy companies they say have been misleading the public on climate change. The emails show the attorneys general "coalition" then attempted to cover up the meeting by deceiving the press. 

Back in March, Schneiderman was joined onstage by former vice president Al Gore at a press conference announcing an investigation into Exxon Mobil, who Schneiderman says has been deceiving the public as to the impact of the company’s activities on global warming, accusing the company of “fraud.” Schneiderman is joined in the investigation by a slew of other state AGs, including those from California and Vermont.

Additionally, Virgin Islands Attorney General Claude Walker, who also attended the backroom meeting with climate activists, has issued a subpoena for 10 years worth of climate change documents and communications from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free market think tank that has challenged the theory of climate change.

According to the emails obtained by EELI, Schneiderman and his staff, along with more than a dozen other state AGs, were briefed before the press conference by two environmental activists: Peter Frumhoff of the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Climate Accountability Institute’s Matt Pawa. According to the agenda for the meeting, each spent nearly an hour briefing the state attorneys general on “the imperative of taking action now” and “climate change litigation.”

On top of the behind-closed-doors meetings with the climate activists, Pawa was then told by Scot Kline, a Vermont assistant attorney general, not to confirm having attended the meeting when asked by the press.

An email sent by Pawa to Kline on March 30 states:

A WSJ [Wall Street Journal] reporter wants to talk to me. I may not even talk to her at all but if I do I obviously will have no comment on anything discussed at the meeting. What should I say if she asks if I attended? No comment? Let me know.

Kline responded less than three hours later:

My ask is if you speak to the reporter, to not confirm that you attended or otherwise discuss the event.

In other emails laying out the meeting’s objectives, Michael Meade, intergovernmental affairs director for the New York Attorney General’s Office, discusses the talking points for the “Climate Coalition of Attorneys General,” which includes discussion topics such as “Climate Change Is Real,” “People Are Being Harmed” and “Immediate Action Is Necessary.”

The coalition “pledge” included in the agenda also suggests an outright infringement on the First Amendment right of free speech, stating:

We pledge to work together to fully enforce the State and federal laws that require progressive action on climate change and that prohibit false and misleading statements to the public, consumers and investors regarding climate change.

The coalition also pledged to “Support Progressive Federal Action” and “Act Against Federal Inaction.”

In an email sent in response to the coalition agenda, Scot Kline suggested that “the use of the term ‘progressive’ in the pledge might alienate some. How about ‘affirmative,’ ‘aggressive,’ ‘forceful’ or something similar?”           

Emails between Kline and Lemuel Srolovic, chief of the New York Attorney General’s Environmental Protection Bureau, show the two attorneys general offices considered signing a “Climate Change Conference Common Interest Agreement,” before the meeting, including a stipulation that:

“The parties retain all applicable privileges and claims to confidentiality, including…exemptions from disclosure under and public records laws that may be asserted to protect against disclosure of Shared Information to non-Parties.”

Kline responded he was concerned about the interest agreement, stating that “anyone providing anything in writing at the conference should assume that it may get produced because of some state’s public record laws. Matt and Peter should stick to what is in the public domain or be prepared to have those materials become public.”

However, despite outright stating that the environmental activists who would be speaking at the conference may have their statements or materials seen by the public, Kline proceeded to tell Matt Pawa just two days later not to confirm he had attended the meeting if asked by the media -- and just one day after the group of liberal attorneys general publicly launched in investigation into Exxon Mobil for allegedly covering up information.