AGs Signed Agreement to Keep #ExxonKnew Documents Secret
This week, Reuters broke the news that a Common Interest Agreement pertaining to state investigations into ExxonMobil has finally been made public through litigation by the Energy & Environment Legal Institute (E&E Legal) – and its contents are pretty revealing.
It is well established that a Common Interest Agreement must be focused on a specific legal action under the transparency laws determined by the states – but the AGs’ agreement, which was signed by the attorneys general of 17 states and territories, is not specific at all. In fact, it is so broad that it covers any organization that the AGs may deem are not in line with their preferred methods of combatting climate change. As Reuters explains,
Besides Exxon, the agreement says other entities could be targeted if states felt they were delaying action to fight climate change.
The pact says the states may take legal action to “defend Federal greenhouse gas emissions limits” and open investigations of “possible illegal conduct to limit or delay the implementation and deployment of renewable energy technology.”
Not only did the AGs sign the agreement to keep their proceedings secret, they also tried a number of methods to avoid disclosing the agreement itself. As E&E Legal states in its press release,
“Prior to obtaining this document through litigation with the District of Columbia’s Attorney General, E&E Legal encountered a series of seemingly panicked and even unlawful excuses from the AGs’ offices to keep the public from seeing a purported deal.
For example, the Rhode Island Office of Attorney General claimed that attachments aren’t part of an email chain and therefore they didn’t have to disclose the agreement.
Perhaps the most absurd excuse came from Iowa’s Attorney General, who claimed that despite declining to become a party to the agreement, it was still covered by the common interest privilege. They also claimed that despite neither writing nor editing the agreement, that it was their attorney work product, so they didn’t have to hand it over.”
After a number of AGs’ offices refused to disclose the agreement, it was ultimately obtained through litigation with the District of Columbia.
Now the big question is: why are these state AGs trying to avoid transparency laws that were adopted to hold them accountable? What do Eric Schneiderman and his AG allies have to hide?
Probably a lot considering that the #ExxonKnew campaign has been rapidly unraveling over the past few months. There are plenty of details to keep straight so EID has provided a full rundown here: