Last week, New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman and “Green 20” — an attorney-general-led coalition seeking to limit climate change — received yet another blow to their ongoing legal crusade against ExxonMobil when New York acting supreme court justice Henry Zwack ruled in favor of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a free-market think tank that has received funding from ExxonMobil.
As a result of the ruling, Schneiderman must comply with CEI’s FOIA request for the common-interest agreements made between his office and other state attorneys general, as well as his agreements with environmental activists. CEI believes that its FOIA request will reveal evidence that the lawsuit is politically motivated. (Just days before Zwack’s ruling, U.S. district judge Ed Kinkeade expressed concern to this effect, and ordered Healey — and, potentially, Schneiderman — to testify in Dallas on December 13.)
In his ruling, Zwack declared that Schneiderman’s denial of CEI’s request represented “nothing more than a parroting of statutory language,” a regurgitation of the law’s essential terms rather than a tailored explanation of his reasoning. CEI’s general counsel Sam Kazman praised this development. “While the campaign by him [Schneiderman] and his cohorts [Green 20] that began in March continues against those who disagree with him on global warming,” Kazman explained in a press release, “we are glad to see that it is being held subject to the basic laws of the land.”
Three members of Green 20 — Massachusetts attorney general Maura Healey, Schneiderman, and Virgin Islands attorney general Claude Walker (who dropped his case in June) — have subpoenaed ExxonMobil for 40 years’ worth of internal documents related to climate change. They claim the energy giant was aware of the risks of climate change and failed to disclose them to the public, and that this failure was fraudulent under anti-securities statutes such as New York’s Martin Act. But if the lawsuit was entered in bad faith, it seems that the real frauds are these public figures who have attempted to abuse their office by engaging in politics where there should be only law.