Published: Monday, August 19, 2019Conservative groups are raising new legal questions about state attorneys general who are involved in climate litigation and hire outside lawyers to work on the issue.
In a lawsuit filed in state court last week, Washington state-based Energy Policy Advocates said Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison (D) must hand over records detailing his office’s communication with a plaintiffs’ law firm that works on climate litigation against energy companies, as well as records related to his office’s hiring of a lawyer — Pete Surdo — through a fellowship sponsored by New York University’s State Energy and Environmental Impact Center.
The State Energy and Environmental Impact Center, funded by billionaire Michael Bloomberg, coordinates with state attorneys general on environmental litigation and organizes the fellowship program to place environmental lawyers in state attorney general offices.
While state offices routinely hire third-party lawyers to help with technical litigation, critics say the setup forces taxpayers to bankroll legal work funded by parties with special interests.
Ellison defended his office’s work.
“Minnesotans are living with the effects of pollution, environmental injustice, and climate change every day, and they expect an Attorney General who enforces environmental law,” he said in a statement. “My office is happy to accept the assistance of New York University law school to help me advance the cause of environmental stewardship. We can legally accept their help and we are honored do so.”
Doug Seaton, president of the Upper Midwest Law Center, is representing the conservative group in the case. Christopher Horner, a senior fellow at the libertarian think tank Competitive Enterprise Institute, also represents the group suing Ellison. Horner has pushed back on mainstream climate science in the past and is on the board of directors of Government Accountability & Oversight, a conservative law group.
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