West Virginia Attorney General: #ExxonKnew Is about ‘Silencing Critics’

Numerous other AGs have also come out against the investigation

– Link to recording of Inside Shale radio show

This morning, on the Inside Shale Weekly radio show, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey slammed New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s “investigation” into ExxonMobil’s climate research, calling it “deeply disappoint[ing]” and an inappropriate abuse of power. Morrisey joins a growing chorus of AGs criticizing the campaign, a number that now exceeds the number of states conducting investigations.

As Morrisey explained this morning,

“Well look I was deeply disappointed as I said after the press conference, you cannot try to simply bully job producers into compliance.  I think what’s happening here is that after the states were stung by the loss in the Supreme Court that they are looking at additional measures to advance their policy ideas but that’s not what being Attorney General is about. You cannot use the power of the office of the Attorney General to silence your critics.” (emphasis added).

Morrisey also pointed to the possible motivation behind this effort:

“I think the reason why you are starting to see some of this rhetoric is because there is a broader sense from Al Gore and other liberal politicians that they want to eliminate fossil fuels and that should not be driving anything—I don’t speak to whether it does in this case but it should not be driving any investigations.” (emphasis added)

Here’s the full recording:

Morrisey isn’t the only AG recently to come out against Schneiderman’s efforts.  Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt put out a press release vowing, “I want to assure you that the State of Kansas is not participating in the Gore group’s initiative, which one reporter at the New York news conference likened to a ‘publicity stunt.’”

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt and Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange came together on a joint press release stating,

 “We won’t be joining this effort, and we want to explain why. Reasonable minds can disagree about the science behind global warming, and disagree they do. This scientific and political debate is healthy, and it should be encouraged. It should not be silenced with threats of criminal prosecution by those who believe that their position is the only correct one and that all dissenting voices must therefore be intimidated and coerced into silence. It is inappropriate for State Attorneys General to use the power of their office to attempt to silence core political speech on one of the major policy debates of our time.

“We are proud to be a part of a different coalition, one driven by respect for the rule of law, rather than by ambition to use the law to silence voices with which we disagree.” (emphasis added)

Finally, Attorney General Jeff Landry of Louisiana said,

“While I was not surprised to see these Attorneys General announce their intention to continue working in support of the unlawful and misguided Clean Power Plan – I was disturbed by their parallel announcement to ‘use all tools at [their] disposal to fight for Climate Progress,’ including the unfettered investigation of individual coal, oil, and natural gas companies’ past or current climate opinions, views, or research. It is one thing to use the legal system to pursue public policy outcomes; but it is quite another to use prosecutorial weapons to intimidate critics, silence free speech, or chill the robust exchange of ideas.”

As Energy In Depth noted just after the Schneiderman press conference, Democratic attorneys general from New Mexico, Washington, D.C., Rhode Island, Maine, Illinois, Virginia, Maryland, Connecticut, and Vermont – all of whom stood on the stage next to Al Gore and Schneiderman – refused to announce that they would be launching their own investigations.

Editorial boards across the country have criticized the #ExxonKnew campaign as an attempt to “stamp out all disagreement,” while also worrying about the legal precedent of pursuing “criminal penalties over those involved in a scientific debate.” An editorial from Bloomberg News called Schneiderman’s investigation a “dangerous arrogation of power.”

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