Documents show Eric Schneiderman’s #ExxonKnew coalition crumbling from within

Press release from E&E Legal:

For Immediate Release:
September 22, 2016

AS AGS’ RICO CAMPAIGN MISFIRES, RE-AIMS, SCHNEIDERMAN SEEKS TO SAVE FACE, DOCUMENTS SUGGEST FOIA REQUESTS LED AT LEAST ONE AG TO ABANDON SCHNEIDERMAN COALITION

Washington, D.C.  — Newly released emails from two different states and obtained by the Energy & Environment Legal Institute (E&E Legal) offer further insight into the collapsed support for New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s ever-shifting #ExxonKnew investigation.  These records suggesting that the AGs United for Clean Power coalition lost members not only to “Eric [being] the wild card for all“, but also to fear of scrutiny of the “climate AGs” from the press and the public. They also show AG offices seemingly getting back at each other over self-serving, improperly selective releases.

This comes amid suggestions that Schneiderman is getting a face-saving intervention by the Obama administration, to end the abusive campaign he started, but was left to face the music for all alone. Specifically, new records show the Delaware Attorney General abandoning ship, reversing course two weeks after having submitted his signature bloc to join.  Delaware informed the team that that office would have no part of the coalition, and its willful disregard of the First Amendment in pursuit of their political goals, in direct response to a spate of emailed notices that open records requests were pouring in.

As recently reported, while Schneiderman originally cast nearly twenty other AGs in supporting roles for his investigation, emails revealed that some of his recruits expressed worry and ultimately walked away from joining in the effort.  This backtracking by Delaware’s AG is found in one of two recently obtained documents showing trouble in the erstwhile paradise of politicians abusing law enforcement offices to extract vows of silence, and a big payday, from political opponents of the AGs’ shared political “climate” agenda.

“These emails provide further evidence that Schneiderman’s supposed coalition, doomed from the start and, as February emails show, organized really to provide the appearance of broader support for his own individual overreach, will not be able to hold tougher in their implausible claims that emails about the scheme are legally privileged.  They are the work of a political coalition,” said Chris Horner, Senior Legal Fellow for E&E Legal. “First the Iowa AG’s office picked up on the gross abuse of power Schneiderman displayed in targeting political opponents. Facing the prospect of scrutiny, the Delaware AG reversed course, revoked his signature and excusing himself from Schneiderman’s crusade,” Horner continued.

Now, despite the vow made at the very beginning to slow-walk any open records requests, other cracks are showing under the strain of arguing that an openly political coalition, with expressly political objectives, warrants a shield under legal privileges to keep their scheming secret.

Consider one more new document, released by New York OAG on the Friday evening before the long Labor Day holiday — a notorious burial ground for embarrassing releases, as any administration or FBI official can tell you.  While the NY OAG sought to bury news of its refusal to produce many hundreds of pages of correspondence about this campaign, it did let slip one exchange from its clutches, apparent slap at it’s co-founding AG office, Vermont’s William Sorrell, along with a couple hundred pages of chaff (such as forwarded news clips and on-line constituent correspondence).

Before Vermont, too, initiated a stonewall it first let on to the AGs’ overreach with April release that we now know was improperly selective and self-serving.  Among other bombshells, this first tranche of records revealed not only New York’s effort at obtaining a secrecy pact (and Vermont’s objections to the planned stonewalling it implied, which it apparently has since gotten over).  That production also showed NY OAG requesting that “outside advisor” and green-group activist lawyer Matt Pawa mislead the media about his role in the “Climate Coalition.”

Pawa, of course, was brought in to the process by New York and Vermont along with the Union of Concerned Scientists, Harvard professors, and no doubt other outside activists, thereby waving any privilege they might claim. FN1  The portions of the email thread that Vermont did release showed Pawa’s awareness of the problems that his involvement poses to the AGs’ political campaign, FN2 and New York suggesting he mislead.

What Vermont forgot to release — its own expression of gratitude to Pawa for saying that not admitting to his role made sense — New York did manage to provide, despite insisting on holding on to everything else but press clippings and web-based consumer concerns:

  • “Outside advisor” PAWA (5.30.16 6:31 pm: Lem and Scot – a WSJ reporter wants to talk to me. I may not even talk to her at all but if I do I obviously will have no comment on anything discussed at the meeting. What should I say if she asks if I attended? No comment? Let me know.
  • NY OAG’s SROLOVIC (5.31.16 9:31 pm): My ask is if you speak to the reporter, to not confirm that you attended or otherwise discuss the event.
  • PAWA 5.31.16 6:34 am): That is what I thought and it makes good sense. Thanks.
  • VT OAG’s KLINE (5.31.16 7:39 am): Thanks Matt.

Vermont managed to release the non-bolded portion of the exchange in the production that led to this scheme blowing up on all participants (and likely contributing to Delaware’s second-guessing participation in the coalition); what Vermont OAG failed to locate and release was its long-time friend Pawa’s agreement with NY OAG’s request to mislead, and Vermont OAG’s own gratitude to Pawa.
In fact, the reporter referenced in the exchange, WSJ’s Amy Harder, had no idea about Pawa’s role and was calling about a different but related meeting that Pawa attended.

Background

Less than a month after Delaware Attorney General Matthew Denn (D) agreed to sign the Common Interest Agreement – which a coalition of AGs have been using improperly to hide their efforts while they investigate climate skeptics – Denn reversed course, informing his colleagues that he would no longer be participating in New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s climate crusade.

Emails obtained by E&E Legal through a Freedom of Information Act request to the Virginia AG’s office reveal that the Delaware AG had signed on to a draft Common Interest Agreement as early as April 21, 2016. In an email to staffers of the AGs participating in Schneiderman’s coalition, New York Deputy Attorney General Monica Wagner indicates that “DC, DE, NH, OR, and WA have approved the latest draft and sent signature blocks” for the purported Common Interest Agreement.


However, by May 9 the Delaware AG had apparently thought better of what was transpiring — by now the subject of a series of open records requests, which had begun to expose it — deciding it would be best if he didn’t get involved in the overtly political campaign to prosecute public dissent against the climate agenda. In an email to the coalition points of contact sent on the evening of May 9, Delaware Deputy Attorney General Ralph Durstein III wrote: “Our AG has determined that Delaware will not be involved in this worthy effort, and thus will not be signing the common interest agreement.”

What had changed in those few short weeks? Notably, Dustin wrote specifically in response to another notice of related FOI requests coming in. Media attention to the investigations into Exxon and conservative think tanks by Schneiderman and the US Virgin Islands’ Claude Walker (who has since aborted his mission), overwhelmingly turned against the AGs.  After a short boost in press coverage of their March 29 press conference, the climate AGs suddenly faced a barrage of criticism by theircolleagues, legal experts, and editorials boards across the country as the details of the AGs’ collaboration with environmental activists continued to trickle out.

The editorial boards of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Grand Junction Sentinel, and Financial Times called on the AGs to come clean and stop abusing the power of their office. Such condemnation continues to flow at the local level, as exemplified by a recent Bend (OR) Bulletin editorial.
Then news broke on May 3 that U.S. Virgin Islands Attorney General Claude Walker had targeted nearly 100 groups in his subpoena to Exxon, opening the flood gates to a wave of outrage towards the AGs’ investigations and their attempts to stifle free speech.

The last straw seems to be the May 9 notification by the Vermont’s AG office alerting the coalition that they had received another public records request, after E&E Legal’s revelations had convinced even Politico to look into the matter. At 11:10AM on May 9, Vermont Assistant Attorney General Scot Kline informed the group via email: “Pursuant to paragraph 6 of the Common Interest Agreement, below is a public records request our office received and the clarification of it.”

Paragraph six of the supposed  Common Interest Agreement says that the parties agree to immediately notify all other parties in writing of any public requests for information covered by the Common Interest Agreement and “refuse to disclose any Shared Information unless required by law.” Even with that stipulation, for a plainly political coalition — or, possibly due to it and some OAGs feeling emboldened — E&E Legal has been forced to sue several AG offices for information related to their campaign.
Within hours of being notified of that most recent public records request posed to the Vermont AG’s office the Delaware Attorney General’s Office decided that it wanted no part in the investigations and rescinded its agreement to formally sign on.

As noted, the Delaware AG is not alone. The same day that, as E&E Legal has revealed, Iowa Deputy Attorney General Tam Ormiston wrote back to his office that “Eric is himself the wild card for all”, his colleague Eric Tabor suggested that they felt like they were stuck with their agreement to participate in the March 29 press conference: “Tam — Just talked with Tom [Miller, Iowa AG]. He thinks we may be locked in on this and have to ride it through.”  Afterward, Iowa also refused to sign on to the “wild card’s” pact.

Also ahead of the March 29 press conference, the Virginia AG’s Director of Communications wrote: “At this point, we don’t know what we’re going to agree to, or really what Virginia’s laws and our authorities could allow us to do, so it makes me nervous to say we’ve ‘agreed to work together on key investigations.’ Is there any room to dial that back one notch?” The Vermont AG’s office likewise tried to tone down the event during the planning stages pointing out, “Not all of the states have yet opened a formal investigation and there is some sensitivity here (and I suspect in some other states) to saying or indicating that we have.”

As Schneiderman’s crusade to silence dissent against his political agenda collapses around him, these latest emails show that his allies saw the writing on the wall. Iowa and Delaware sought to extract themselves before they got in too deep, while others must be questioning their involvement now that Congress, the media, and public opinion have turned against them.


1 The other email NY would let slip from its clutches in this batch showed Schneiderman’s lieutenant running the RICO “Climate Coalition”, Lem Srolovic, alerting UCS’s representative he had b brief the AGs just before Pawa did on March 29, Peter Frumhoff, to ExxonMobil having issued a statement, and another seeking to talk.

2  Pawa himself admitted the political nature — which, after his involvement was revealed, he then denied — in an interview with The Nation magazine earlier this year. “I’ve been hearing for twelve years or more that legislation is right around the corner that’s going to solve the global-warming problem, and that litigation is too long, difficult, and arduous a path,” said Matthew Pawa, a climate attorney. “Legislation is going nowhere, so litigation could potentially play an important role.”https://www.thenation.com/article/the-government-may-already-have-the-law-it-needs-to-beat-big-oil/

The Energy & Environment Legal Institute (E&E Legal) is a 501(c)(3) organization engaged in strategic litigation, policy research, and public education on important energy and environmental issues. Primarily through its petition litigation and transparency practice areas, E&E Legal seeks to correct onerous federal and state policies that hinder the economy, increase the cost of energy, eliminate jobs, and do little or nothing to improve the environment.

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42 thoughts on “Documents show Eric Schneiderman’s #ExxonKnew coalition crumbling from within

  1. Unfortunately, as I’ve previously mentioned, this won’t placate the warmists.

    If the AG wins, its because its a righteous cause.

    If the AG loses, its because of Big Oil.

    Being left means you never have to be right.

    • Caligual Jones – “Being left means you never have to be right.” That says it all – Eugene WR Gallun

    • FBI working for the Clinton’s !!! James Comely is going to resign !URGENT !!!
      Hillary e-mail me
      J.Comely !

  2. For those dropping out, how much in donations did they collect for what amounts to a photo-op with Al Gore and yet another fake agreement.

  3. I still think a suit or prosecution under the various Ku Klux Klan acts would have a salutary effect on the AGs. Jail or bankruptcy would improve their attitude.

  4. There are two separate aspects here. The original ‘Merchants of Doubt’ scheme, and then Schneiderman’s subsequent morphs, first to ‘future climate change stranded’ Exxon assets, and now to reserve writedowns at current oil and gas prices.
    The first was political nonsense provably instigated by Naomi Oreskes and the UCS in 2012, has been roundly criticized, and with further legal repercussions still possible. The stranded future assets thing was stupid from the beginning. Even presuming the CPP is constitutional (it likely isn’t), it is aimed at coal. Oil is not used to produce most electricity (except some third world diesel), and nat gas in a CCGT produces 35% the CO2 of a modern supercritical coal station. As another example, UK just cut its plugnin electric car subsidy by half and sales promptly fell 85%. So no Exxon assets are remotely climate stranded at present. To claim they were would itself violate the Martin Act.
    As to lack of Exxon reserves writedowns, that is a complicated issue. Chevron is very exposed to deepwater, which requires >$85/bbl to proceed. Writedowns. Shell was exposed to the Arctic, and failed in the Chukchi sea last summer. Writedowns. Exxon has neither exposure, and is rumored to be very conservative in booking reserves. They took no writedowns during the last oil price dip, either, while others did. Besides, it is easy to show that (except for the Permian Basin shales), the near term market clearing price is $60-70/bbl, and that price will be reached sometime in 2017. As the temporary glut works off. Conventional production from existing fields is declining 7%/year. That means new production of about 6mbpd needs to come on every year even before considering market growth. With deepwater everwhere and Russia’s Yamal giants and more Canada bitumem sands undevelopable economically even at $70/bbl, this means mainly Iraq,Iran or US shale. (Saudi and Kuwait and Mexico and Nigeria have no significant new replacement discoveries). No way under present circumstances will Iraq or Iran be able to ramp that much in two or three years. So US shale will once again be the marginal global supplier sometime next year. As long as Exxon’s proven reserves were booked at $60-70/bbl or below, neither Schneiderman nor the SEC will eventually find anything wrong. Proven Reserves are priced against their development and production horizon, which is decades not years.
    Schneiderman’s black eye will get blacker.

    • Don’t tell Puerto Rico that Oil isn’t used to produce Electricity.
      almost 65% of their ‘lectricity comes directly from burinig Fuel Oil which is why their ‘lectric rates run 27 cents-KwH or more

      • Puerto Rico planned to replace that old plant with new CCGT fueled by imported LNG, and have it running now. Hasn’t happened because the EPA has tied the LNG shipping port in knots and delays for over two years concerning sea turtles or something. Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale both shut their 1960’s resid clunkers in 2014 and have new CCGT up and running already at the same sites.

    • And did the electric vehicle companies in the UK list subsidy reduction as a “climate change risk” in statements to their investors?

  5. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is reportedly investigating oil giant Exxon Mobil Corp. over its policies regarding climate change and certain accounting methods.

    The probe focuses in part on how Exxon, the United States’ largest oil and natural gas company, factors the impact of climate change and related government policies on its business, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday, citing sources familiar with the inquiry.

    Officials also want to know why Exxon has not written down the values of its oil and gas reserves amid the precipitous price drop over the last two years, the Journal said. Nearly every major oil and gas company has written down their reserves to better reflect the lower values when prices are down.

    http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/296853-sec-investigating-exxon-on-climate-accounting-report

    • Those who have read that article and others like it know that this “investigation” is a political sham; for over 50 years Exxon has been known for having the most conservative accounting practices in the entire industry, in relation to their reserve evaluations. Everyone who knows even the slightest amount about the industry and how it treats reserves know that Exxon evaluations are the gold standard of conservative accounting.

      Watch for this “investigation” to stay open until November 9th or so, and then be quietly dropped. Good bet for the announcement would be the Friday after Thanksgiving – no one will be paying attention to the news cycle that day, which is what they’ll want.

      Even from their POV, it doesn’t need to go on after the election. They know even more than we do that the only purpose it has is to pump up far left greens, and inspire them to go vote for Hillary. They know nothing will happen – it’s all just Kabuki Theatre.

      • And – just as if Schneiderman got the slightest concern for Exxon Mobil´s investors – haha – I guess that nothing would please Schneiderman more than if the investors in Exxon Mobile loose on their investments. And I am quite sure that none of the investors in Exxon Mobile got the slightest interest in being “protected” or “helped” by Schneiderman. Exxon is probably the most careful company you might find within the business.

        Schneiderman is sailing under a false flag – and is demonstrating gross negligence – why on earth is he still an Attorney General?

    • You don’t write down what you never wrote up in the first place.

      With money going down due to runaway inflation, any oil is like food on the table.

      G

      • The group that worked on “tobacco” to be used against Exxon had a Greenpeace International member.

        McKibben worked with parties in Alberta tar sands associated with Greenpeace Canada.

        One party from Oil change International was involved with Greenpeace Canada in Alberta tar sands.

        Imperial Oil, Canada is majority owned by Exxon and has Alberta operations.

    • Just to add to my previous post, the effect of Exxon’s conservative accounting practices (basically they always book their reserves at a very low value, something in the neighborhood of $20/barrel) is that during boom times, when prices are high, the company is actually somewhat undervalued. The flip side is that when prices go down, their valuation simply moves from undervalued to fairly valued, which means they don’t have to do any asset write-downs.

      So this practice, of being as conservative as they possibly can be with their numbers, is what the SEC will be “investigating”.

      • In Canada, accounting practices and law require that reserves must be classified as proven, probable or possible. The categories are determined by geological factors and production costs versus market prices. As market prices move, reserve figures are likewise moved from one category to another. Separately, an integrated oil company like Exxon not only produces oil but sells refined products and even buys crude from other producers. This means that a drop in crude price is offset by valuations of land, equipment and gains on the retail side of the business. People who don’t live cheek by jowl with oil have no understanding of the scale, complexity and technical sophistication of the industry. Both Exxon and the investment community these opportunistic jackasses pretend to protect have thousands of individuals who are smarter than these chumps!

  6. I am shocked by the gross negligence by these State Attorney Generals. State Attorney Generals are supposed to defend the constitution, protect the public against illegal actions and operate on the safe side of the law.

    The State Attorney Generals have all sworn an oath like this:
    “I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter.”

    The problem is that these Attorney Generals, and their supporters, seem to be domestic enemies of the
    constitution themselves. What is really disturbing is that the United States Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, is sitting completely still – demonstrating a complete lack of integrity. And the most disturbing of all is that the Nobel peace prize winner, Obama, let this all happen.

    Why on earth are these Attorney Generals still holding office?

    • Like most leftists, their two highest priorities are to the ideology and to their personal wealth. Which comes first varies from one to another and from one time to another.

  7. The entire premise of this never made sense if you see the reality. Not whether Exon knew anything or not but what was it that they should have seen? The last 4 decades have featured the best weather/climate and CO2 levels for most life on this planet since the Medieval Warm Period, ~1,000 years ago.

    If Exon knew 4 decades ago, that in 2015 and 2016, the planet would be the “hottest ever” with weather that featured things like hurricane and tornado droughts in the US, as well as record breaking crop yields, what should we be holding them accountable for?

    So we are to hold them accountable because some scientists think that bad things might happen in the future, based on a speculative theory using unreliable(not verifying) global climate model projections…… when so far, mostly good things have resulted from the increase in CO2?

    Maybe we should be asking them why they let the IPCC take control of a false narrative uncontested, that warming from human emissions of CO2 is dangerous? This misled the world and Exon’s scientific research identified CO2 as a beneficial gas well before the IPCC existed (-:

    Actually, when entities like Exon do share authentic science like that, they get called “deniers” and accused of having financial or other motives to sabotage the efforts to save our (rapidly greening up) planet.

  8. I;m confused – Ed Crooks of Financial Times (mentioned in your article as asking the AGs to come clean and stop abusing their power) is under investigation by the AGs, and that the SEC has also started looking in to those issues as well. Admittedly, Crooks is is wildly socialist and Green (sorry – tautological if I’d just started with ‘Green’), but still he speaks for FT. He seems to see things differently than the editors you mentioned.

  9. In the new political reality of the Left, the truth is irrelevant: Its what you can win in the Courts of the Law, and Public Opinion, that matters.

    Of course, there is a third court.

    The Court of Nature and Real World Events.

    Where the global economy has hit an iceberg and is sinking, whilst auctions are held for the deckchairs, and the steerage passengers are flooding into the first call decks, and there aren’t enough lifeboats.

  10. I’m surprised that Delaware was ever involved. They have the most corporate friendly corporate laws and courts in the US which is why so many companies list themselves in Delaware. As a state they get a lot of benefit from that. Weird to see them involved in an anticorporate witch hunt.

  11. NY AG office website has complaint forms for Civil Rights issues & for Public Integrety (to complain about a specific agency.

    All that live in NY should fill out complaint forms….

  12. The Tobacco playbook is a tempting one for the AG’s. Much loot was shaken loose from private companies. Many millions diverted from those buying the products into the pockets of lawyers, organizations, and politicians. All while claiming to be on the side of the angels.

    Corruption of the political/legal system isn’t just something that happens in Ecuador. Here at least we have a chance to fight back.

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