Republicans on the U.S. House Science, Space, and Technology Committee are going after attorneys general and green groups nationwide for their unprecedented effort to investigate and prosecute climate criminals.
A group of 13 Republican committee members on Wednesday sent letters to 17 attorneys general and eight environmental organizations—including 350.org, Greenpeace, and the Union of Concerned Scientists—claiming the effort amounted to a violation of climate deniers' First Amendment rights.
"The committee is concerned that these efforts to silence speech are based on political theater rather than legal or scientific arguments, and that they run counter to an attorney general's duty to serve 'as the guardian of the legal rights of the citizens' and to 'assert, protect, and defend the rights of the people,'" the letter stated.
The lawmakers also requested documents related to the effort of the self-proclaimed "Green 20" (G20) to go after fossil fuel companies like ExxonMobil, which spent decades fueling public skepticism about climate change and actively working to suppress scientific data that global warming was caused by human activity.
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The G20 announced in March it would go after "high-funded and morally vacant forces" that have stymied efforts to combat climate change.
"Fossil fuel companies that deceived investors and consumers about the dangers of climate change should be, must be held accountable," Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said at the time, noting the "troubling disconnect between what Exxon knew, what industry folks knew, and the company and industry chose to share with investors and the American public."
On Wednesday, Greenpeace executive director Annie Leonard responded to the letters stating, "America's least-respected politicians have now courageously stepped up to defend one of America's most-hated corporations from scrutiny. If these Representatives, who have historically low approval ratings, think they’re somehow helping Exxon's public image with this nonsense, then they need to take some time away from lobbyist mixers and meet the people."
"If Exxon knew its work made climate change worse and hid this information for profit, it should be held accountable, not protected by elected officials who are there to represent the American people, not corporations," Leonard said. "Since 1999, these 13 elected officials have been paid millions in campaign contributions from coal, oil and gas companies, so this letter is more proof that the system works—for corporations."