The collaborative investigation from state attorneys general into climate change-related matters is “un-American,” will hurt business investment in the United States and threatens the free enterprise system, a top U.S. Chamber of Commerce official said Wednesday.
“The idea that a group of attorneys general can get together and decide to collaborate and corroborate, to persecute not just a single company now but an industry, because they are ideologically opposed to the product it produces, is un-American,” said Karen Harbert, the president of the Chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy.
A slate of Democratic attorneys general said Tuesday they would work together on climate change-related matters, including a multistate investigation into allegations that Exxon Mobil Corp. lied to the public about its climate change research.
An audience member asked Harbert about the statement during a Montana energy conference hosted by Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.). She said the effort could set a bad precedent for all American businesses .
“If it’s Exxon Mobil today, it will be the energy industry as a whole tomorrow,” she said.
“It could be the utilities, it could be the pharmaceuticals, you name it. Everybody will be on the block. That somebody decides they don’t like what you do, they’re going to use the power of government and law enforcement to come after you, will provide a very chilling effect on investment in this country.”
Exxon has repeatedly denied accusations it broke the law by shielding its climate change research from the public. Attorneys general from New York, California and elsewhere have launched probes into the claims, and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey on Tuesday said her state will join the efforts.
Environmental groups lauded the investigation, as well as a push from New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to develop “creative ways to enforce laws being flouted by the fossil fuel industry and their allies in their short-sighted efforts to hold profits above the interests of the American people and the integrity of our financial markets.”
But Harbert said such an effort is improper and threatens American business.
“I would submit that I think that people — no matter where you are on the ideological spectrum, or where you are in your view of energy — they would see that as un-American,” she said Wednesday.