Greens fire back at House GOP over Exxon climate probe

Two green groups are questioning whether House Republicans are trying to protect ExxonMobil Corp. and other fossil fuel companies because of the energy giant’s campaign contributions.

In a Wednesday response to a subpoena threat sent by House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas), Greenpeace and are asking Smith and his colleagues about their communications and relationships with Exxon and other companies.

{mosads}It’s the latest volley in a growing fight over whether Exxon should be punished for denying the science of climate change, despite reportedly knowing what later became the scientific consensus about humans’ role in global warming.

Smith and his committee are now investigating a handful of liberal attorneys general who have launched probes into the matter, along with environmental groups that support the probes. 

Greenpeace and said they won’t give in to Smith’s threat to subpoena numerous categories of documents related to Exxon and fossil fuel companies.

“The requests served upon Greenpeace and simply cannot be squared with the Committee’s stated concerns regarding freedom of speech and scientific inquiry,” the groups wrote.

“The Committee’s requests violate basic First Amendment protections, fall outside the proper jurisdiction of the Committee, and are impermissibly vague, overbroad, and burdensome. For these reasons, Greenpeace and respectfully refuse to comply with the Committee’s requests.”

Their letter also asks numerous questions about the panel’s dealings with Exxon, like whether members have met privately with representatives of Exxon or other companies and how much money they’ve accepted from them or related organizations.

“We would like to know exactly how much money Exxon, other fossil fuel companies, and allied nonprofits and think tanks have given members of the House Science Committee,” Annie Leonard, Greenpeace’s executive director, said in a statement. “We would also love Rep. Smith to make public all communications between members of the Committee and those same groups.”

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D), who is investigating Exxon, also responded Wednesday and reiterated his refusal to provide the requested documents to Smith.

In Schneiderman’s letter, he also challenged Smith’s probe and his authority.

“It is clear that your Committee does not have the authority that it has claimed — i.e., to conduct oversight to address the Committee’s concern that a duly elected, constitutional officer of a separate sovereign government may be taking actions that ‘run counter’ to his duties under State law,” he wrote.

“Your current explanation that the Committee has jurisdiction based on a concern for federals-funded scientists is inconsistent with your initial letter and equally unpersuasive, as it too turns on the false premise that [Scheniderman’s office] is somehow investigating scientists’ research or views.”

Smith last week set a deadline at noon on Wednesday for responses from the groups, as well as from Schneiderman and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey (D), who is also investigating Exxon.

In previous communications, the greens and attorneys general have argued that Smith has no jurisdiction over state officials or environmental groups.

— This story was updated at 11:35 a.m.

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