- Associated Press - Thursday, May 19, 2016

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - Republican members of Congress have accused New York’s Democratic attorney general and his counterparts in 16 other jurisdictions of chilling free speech over climate change through their legal and political campaign to curb fossil fuel burning.

Thirteen of the 21 GOP members of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology said in a letter Wednesday that Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and the others have been pushed by environmental activists “to use their prosecutorial powers to stifle scientific discourse.” None of the 16 Democrats on the committee signed the letter.

Letters were sent to all 17 attorneys general, who announced their coordinated effort March 29. Schneiderman and at least two others are investigating whether Exxon Mobil has misled the public and investors about global warming from burning oil and other fuels. The company has denied any wrongdoing, saying it has provided shareholders information about the business risks of climate change for years.

“In the weeks since the March 29 press conference, legal actions against those who question climate change orthodoxy … have rapidly expanded to include subpoenas for documents, communications and research that would capture the work of more than 100 academic institutions, scientists and nonprofit organizations,” the congressmen wrote.

They cite events starting with a 2012 workshop in California by the Climate Accountability Institute and Union of Concerned Scientists, strategies outlined there and subsequent meetings by environmentalists in a sequence that “raises serious questions about the impartiality and independence of current investigations by the attorneys general.” The letters ask the 17 attorneys general for all documents and communications between their offices and those two organizations, other activist groups, federal agencies and among themselves concerning subpoenas or potential prosecutions related to climate change.

Committee Chairman Lamar Smith and three other congressmen who signed the letter are from Texas, where Exxon Mobil is based.

Schneiderman spokesman Eric Soufer said the attorney general has opened a significant investigation into whether Exxon committed securities fraud, business fraud, and consumer fraud in New York and across the U.S., and won’t be intimidated by the lawmakers. “It is remarkable that a do-nothing Congress that has refused to take any action on climate change is now attempting to disrupt this important investigation into potential corporate malfeasance,” he said.

The letters appear to be part of a media campaign funded by the fossil fuel industry “aimed at suppressing the free exchange of ideas among scientists, academics, and responsible law enforcement,” Soufer said. The office is reviewing the letter and considering its response.

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