By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Thursday, June 16, Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange (R) led a 13-state letter urging the nation’s Attorneys General to resist using their subpoena powers to target energy industries for their views in the heated climate change debate.
AG Strange said in a statement, “State Attorneys General should not abuse subpoena power to silence speech or side with one industry against a competitor under investigation. Yet we have seen this very approach used by a group of Attorneys General in an apparent effort to advance a climate change agenda. This is a chilling abuse of power that must be stopped.”
Strange et al wrote in the letter: “Several state Attorneys General recently held a press conference under the banner of ‘AGs United for Clean Power. The media event highlighted an investigation into ‘whether fossil fuel companies misled investors and the public on the impact of climate change on their businesses.’ We think this effort by our colleagues to police the global warming debate through the power of the subpoena is a grave mistake.”
The 13 state AGs letter went on: “We are concerned that our colleagues’ investigation undermines the trust the people have invested in Attorneys General to investigate fraud. Investigatory subpoenas were issued to at least one company and one non-profit believed to have made statements minimizing the risks of climate change. At the press conference, one of our colleagues noted that ‘[w]e are pursuing this as we would any other fraud matter.’ We routinely investigate fraud and have done so with many of the states present at the press conference. But this investigation is far from routine. We are unaware of any fraud case combining the following three characteristics: 1) the investigation targets a particular type of market participant; 2) the Attorneys General identify themselves with the competitors of their investigative targets; and 3) the investigation implicates an ongoing policy debate.”
Strange’s letter also questioned how one company’s minimizing climate change risk is fraud and yet another company’s exaggeration of climate change impact is not: “First, this fraud investigation targets only ‘fossil fuel companies’ and only statements minimizing climate change risks. If it is possible to minimize the risks of climate change, then the same goes for exaggeration. If minimization is fraud, exaggeration is fraud.”
Attorney General Strange was joined in the “Dear Colleagues” letter by the Attorney Generals from Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin.
Meanwhile 17 Democraic attorney generals are working together on the controversial fraud investigation of climate change skeptics.
ExxonMobil has sued Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey after her office subpoenaed 40 years of Exxon records in an investigation of whether the company committed consumer or securities fraud by misrepresenting its knowledge of climate change.
Exxon has a similar suit pending against Claude Walker, the attorney general of the US Virgin Islands for launching a similar probe.
The group was organized by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, whose office initiated an Exxon inquiry last year.
Exxon has asked the federal court to either issue an injunction halting the investigation or rule that the investigation is without legal merit.
Attorney General Strange is viewed as a possible candidate to replace Gov. Bentley in 2018 or to succeed Senator Sessions if that seat were to become available if Sessions were to join a future Trump Administration).
(Original reporting by Inside Climate News reporter David Hasemyer contributed to this report)