Energy & Environment

New York, others will not give Congress Exxon investigation materials

Getty Images

The attorneys general of New York and several other states will not turn over information about their investigations of Exxon Mobil Corp. to a U.S. House committee. 

In a May letter to Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) obtained by The Hill on Thursday, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office said it would not provide the House Science Committee with documents related to claims Exxon Mobil misled the public about its internal climate science research. 

{mosads}Smith, the chairman of the committee, and several GOP members had asked Schneiderman and other attorneys general to turn over information about their investigations, including communications between their offices and groups that reject mainstream climate science.

Schneiderman’s letter, from office counsel Leslie Dubeck, said Smith’s request oversteps Congress’s ability to gather materials from state attorneys general, saying it’s forbidden by the Constitution. Dubeck added that there is no precedent for “a Congressional investigation or oversight of a state Attorney General.”

Smith and other opponents of the Exxon Mobil investigations have said they infringe on the First Amendment rights of oil industry interests. But Schneiderman’s office said its investigation is related to potential fraud, not protected speech. 

“Our investigation seeks to ensure that investors and consumers were and are provided with complete and accurate information that is indispensable to the just and effective functioning of our free market,” the letter said. 

“There is no basis for your suggestion that the [Schneiderman’s office] has been engaged in a ‘coordinated attempt to deprive companies, nonprofit organizations, and scientists of their First Amendment rights ability to fund and conduct scientific research free from intimidation and threats of prosecution.’ ”

Smith had asked for documents from 17 attorneys general who in March agreed to cooperate on various initiatives regarding climate change.

Officials from California, New Mexico, Maryland, Connecticut, Washington, Massachusetts and the District of Columbia confirmed their opposition to Smith’s probe on Thursday; Politico reports Vermont and Oregon also declined to provide documents.

Schneiderman was the first state attorney general to announce an investigation into Exxon Mobil, based in part on reports last year alleging the company covered up research into the impact of burning fossil fuels on climate change. 

He hosted the March meeting that led to the multistate effort to investigate climate issues.  

In a statement, Smith said his committee “remains focused on protecting  the independence and integrity of scientific thought and debate.”

“The actions of the attorneys general and the environmental activist groups have the potential to chill the scientific process,” he said. “Our request, which is an exercise of Congress’ legitimate oversight authority grounded in the U.S. Constitution, seeks to understand the effect of these tactics. The American people have a right to know that research is being conducted without fear of reprisal.”

Timothy Cama contributed.

This post was updated at 5:04 p.m.

Tags Climate change Eric Schneiderman ExxonMobil Lamar Smith
See all Hill.TV See all Video