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Exxon Mobil And D.C. Think Tank Vow To Fight V.I. AG Walker’s Subpoena Over Global Warming


DALLAS — Exxon Mobil Corp. is squaring off against government investigators who believe the energy giant covered up knowledge of how fossil fuels contribute to climate change.

Exxon went to state court this week in Texas to quash a subpoena issued last month by the V.I. Attorney General Claude Walker.

The company says the investigation violates its constitutional rights to speak freely and to be protected from unreasonable searches and seizures.

Two weeks ago, Walker and his counterpart from Massachusetts announced they would join New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s investigation into whether Exxon misled investors and the public about the threat of climate change. Walker’s office sent subpoenas to Exxon and a pro-fossil fuel think tank.

Exxon called the investigation an effort to silence the company in the public debate about climate change. It said the Virgin Islands official wants to go through decades of company documents in hopes of finding ammunition for his position in the debate.
Exxon, which is based in Irving, Texas, filed a petition against the subpoena Wednesday n state district court in nearby Fort Worth. It named Walker and a Washington lawyer and law firm helping Walker as defendants.

Meanwhile, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a public policy think tank, will oppose a subpoena that demands documents related to its research on climate change and donor information, officials of the institute said in a Tuesday afternoon phone call.

“We’ve been targeted for our ideas,” Kent Lassman, the new president and CEO of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, said Tuesday.

Walker served a 14-page subpoena on the institute while investigating ExxonMobil Corp.’s alleged misrepresentation of its products and activities contributing to climate change “in order to defraud the government … and consumers.”

“Walker is part of a network of state ‘AGs United for Clean Power’ who have formed a grand inquisition to go after those they claim have lied about climate change—which is a contentious and unproven scientific theory,” Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation, wrote in an op-ed inThe Daily Signal.

Attorneys general of 20 states have launched an effort to investigate and prosecute organizations that have attempted to combat global warming, EcoWatch reported last month.

Glenn Harlan Reynolds, a University of Tennessee law professor, wrote in an opinion piece in USA Today:

“Not everyone believes that the planet is warming; not everyone who thinks that it is warming agrees on how much; not everyone who thinks that it is warming even believes that laws or regulation can make a difference. Yet the goal of these state attorneys general seems to be to treat disagreement as something more or less criminal.”

The subpoena in discussion, issued outside Walker’s jurisdiction by the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, seeks documents that date from 1997 to the end of 2006, according to the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Sam Kazman, general counsel for the institute, said on the call Tuesday:

“While they seemed geared towards just looking at our communications and documents relating to Exxon, if you read them carefully, they really go after just about everything we have done on climate and energy policy for a full decade and for the names of, really, all our donors.”

Kazman added:

“We believe this is an outrageous violation of our First Amendment rights.”

According to the Competitive Enterprise Institute, “the subpoena requests a decade’s worth of communications, emails, statements, drafts, and other documents regarding CEI’s work on climate change and energy policy, including private donor information.”

“[The subpoena] is designed not only to silence us, but it is also designed to defund us,” Myron Ebell, director of the institute’s Center for Energy and Environment, said Tuesday, adding:
These efforts to defund us and other free market groups that have unpolitically correct views on climate and some other major issues[.] … We’ve been dealing with this for a long time, but I think we have now reached another level. When you get attorney general involved, it’s no longer just a debate in the public base that try to shut us up, but it’s using the full force of the state to do so. We’re taking this very seriously.

As far as the Competitive Enterprise Institute knows, its officials said on the call, it is the first nonprofit to receive a subpoena as a result of “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.”

Kazman had said in a statement last week:

“CEI will vigorously fight to quash this subpoena[.] … 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.”

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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