This week the Attorney General for the State of Rhode Island filed suit in state court against twenty one oil companies. In an elaborate ceremony in which Rhode Island struck the pose of David vs Goliath, flanked by political leaders and environmental activists, AG Peter Kilmartin took up the campaign to fill state and activist coffers courtesy of energy companies such as Shell, Chevron and ExxonMobil.
This lawsuit, while unprecedented in that it is the first time a state has specifically sued over climate change, continues a staggered and clearly intentional pattern begun by coastal municipalities like San Francisco and Oakland, later followed by New York City. Those efforts followed on a coalition of AGs seeking to use their law enforcement offices to right the listing ship of the ‘climate’ political agenda by initiating investigations of energy companies (and even think tanks) hoping to obtain something of a ‘confession,’ vow of silence, and big settlement to redistribute to state and activist budgets.
These municipal and now state lawsuits claim that petroleum products sold by the companies contribute to climate change leading to all sorts of natural disasters such as Superstorm Sandy.
With much more and worse sure to follow these lawsuits are targeting the very companies that provide the products these same municipalities and states so heavily rely on. Without these companies, fire trucks, police cars, National Guard units and even staff-driven cars for elected officials would be sitting idle unable to function in support of state and local government.
Why are governments suing the very companies that fuel their daily activities? How do official offices come to be used this way, as so many donor interests and other political constituencies demand? Is something going on out of the public eye? According to documents obtained by non-profit groups that specialize in compelling transparency in government, in the face of often aggressive stonewall campaigns, this lawsuit is part of a chain of events that originates with former Attorney General of New York, the disgraced Eric Schneiderman.
Under Schneiderman’s leadership, 15 state AGs signed a “Climate Change Coalition Common Interest Agreement as part of a coordinated effort by climate change activist groups to target oil, gas and other companies, the most prominent and featured target to date being ExxonMobil. The agreement calls for coordination and sign-off before public records are released into the clutches of that prying public.
It gets worse. In emails obtained by some of the same non-profit groups — and privilege logs of emails with donors and activists that Schneiderman refused to turn over, claiming they were necessarily secret “law enforcement” materials — we see Schneiderman secretly joined with donors, activists, trial lawyers and other campaigners to plan litigation strategies against “Big Oil.” The emails hint that this attack is not simply about protecting the environment on behalf of the voters but rather obtaining large payments to help finance government programs. We know such settlements are now used to distribute monies to political constituencies.
Indeed, in another recent municipality lawsuit out of Seattle, an official referenced in MyNorthwest admitted that “An abatement fund could be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.” One member of the faculty lounge whose livelihood is in campaigning and communications strategies for the climate industry noted, “if a RICO suit were successful; and if there was a settlement between the government and the fossil fuel industry — there is no question in my mind that a good portion of that money should be spent on a national campaign to educate people on the risks of climate change, and build their resolve to work towards solutions.”
As, Chris Horner, an attorney specializing in government transparency and energy policy noted in a comment cited by Western Wire, these suits are not designed to win, but to settle, “hopefully for a large pot of money.”
Also present at the announcement was none other than Rhode Island’s Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, who shall forever be associated with his pressing then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch to prosecute political opponents of the climate agenda.
The pair’s colloquy at a March 2016 hearing of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary addressed Sen. Whitehouse’s radical push to employ the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO, against such opponents, which led to Ms. Lynch admitting:
“This matter has been discussed. We have received information about it and have referred it to the FBI to consider whether or not it meets the criteria for which we could take action on”.
Relevant to this week’s spectacle, Peter Frumhoff of the environmental activist and lobby group Union of Concerned Scientists appeared in a July 31, 2015 email the Competitive Enterprise Institute obtained in a public records lawsuit against George Mason University (Horner et al v GMU). In it, Frumhoff informs an activist academic — months before any AG subpoenaed records – that UCS had no interest in supporting Sen. Whitehouse’s call for RICO investigation of opponents…but that he was working on “state (e.g. AG) action” against “fossil fuel companies.”
As such, in these AG, city and state suits we see the fulfillment of UCS’s suggestion of running from Sen. Whitehouse’s abusive request, toward the equally abusive marshaling of state AGs to do the activists’ bidding. Stay tuned to see if more State Attorney’s General continue their #IStandWithScheiderman campaign.