- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 16, 2016

If Democratic attorneys general can pursue climate change skeptics for fraud, then also at risk of prosecution are climate alarmists whose predictions of global doom have failed to materialize.

The “cuts both ways” argument was among those raised by 13 Republican attorneys general in a letter urging their Democratic counterparts to stop using their law enforcement power against fossil fuel companies and others that challenge the climate change catastrophe narrative.

Consider carefully the legal precedent and threat to free speech, said the state prosecutors in their letter this week, headed by Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange.

“If it is possible to minimize the risks of climate change, then the same goes for exaggeration,” said the letter. “If minimization is fraud, exaggeration is fraud.”

The letter comes as Exxon Mobil fights off subpoenas by two prosecutors — Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and Virgin Islands Attorney General Claude E. Walker — for decades’ worth of climate-related documents and communications with academics, universities and free-market think tanks.

New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and California Attorney General Kamala Harris have also reportedly launched probes.

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The 17 attorneys general — 16 Democrats and one independent — announced at a March 29 press conference that they had formed a coalition, AGs United for Clean Power.

“We think this effort by our colleagues to police the global warming debate through the power of the subpoena is a grave mistake,” said the letter.

The name of the coalition itself shows that the attorneys general “have taken the unusual step of aligning themselves with the competition of their investigative targets,” namely the solar and wind energy.

“If the focus is fraud, such alignment by law enforcement sends the dangerous signal that companies in certain segments of the energy market need not worry about their misrepresentations,” said the GOP letter.

Democrats have denied that the effort violates Exxon’s free-speech rights. Schneiderman spokesman Eric Soufer said in a statement that, “The law is clear: the First Amendment does not give any corporation the right to commit fraud.”

The campaign against Exxon, backed by a bevy of climate change groups such as the Union of Concerned Scientists, which has advised the Democrat-led coalition, also violates the Constitution by sending the message that certain viewpoints represent a prosecutable offense, the letter said.

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“Actions indicating that one side of the climate debate should fear prosecution chills free speech in violation of a formerly bipartisan First Amendment consensus,” said the Republicans.

In addition to Mr. Strange, those signing the letter were Attorneys General Ken Paxton of Texas, Bill Schuette of Michigan, Craig Richards of Alaska, Doug Peterson of Nebraska, Adam Laxalt of Nevada, Mark Brnovich of Arizona, Sean Reyes of Utah, Leslie Rutledge of Arkansas, Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma, Brad Schimel of Wisconsin, Jeff Landry of Louisiana and Alan Wilson of South Carolina.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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