By Chris Horner, Climate Litigation Watch
CLW readers recall Oregon State University’s (and State Climatologist) Phil Mote writing not once but twice about a “secret meeting at Harvard” at which he presented, along with other academics, activists and plaintiffs lawyers advancing their case for “potential state causes of action against major carbon producers.”
Earlier open records litigation had established that participants also included officials from numerous, politically activist state attorneys general offices, as well as municipalities. A recent production from Los Angeles confirmed that it had an attorney present.
What made this event even more shocking was other Mote correspondence confessing the event was also briefing for “prospective funders”. The context in the emails made it clear that this meant funders of the Climate Litigation Industry.
In OSU’s public records production, we also see Union of Concerned Scientists’ Peter Frumhoff write about points “I’ve made in previous talk to AG staff”, specifically that he was “happy to share” with Mote slides he had used. Mote accepted, and Frumhoff did send slides, on April 20, 2016, writing, “Hi Phil, I find these work well as a backdrop to making these points”. However, OSU did not manage to produce those (or other slides attached to other responsive emails).
In response to challenge, OSU wrote, “Oregon State University no longer has the original email.”
Indeed, we only learned of these deleted slides inside a larger “thread” (OSU explained the deletion of Mote’s own Harvard presentation slides by noting he deletes things over 1 MB in size. Ah, yes, public records custodianship in action).
This was disappointing for reasons other than the poor optics it presents. Frumhoff played a key role in bringing about the use of AGs to use the courts to advance, and target opponents of, the failed “climate” political agenda. As we learned in docs obtained in Horner v. George Mason University, Frumhoff told GMU communications prof Ed Maibach in July 2015:
Just so you know, we’re also in the process of exploring other state-based approaches to holding fossil fuel companies legally accountable – we think there’ll likely be a strong basis for encouraging state (e.g. AG) action forward and, in that context, opportunities for climate scientists to weigh in.
It would be interesting- and perhaps very useful – to consider how calls for legal accountability will play out in the court of public opinion in different states/with different subsets of the American public- something perhaps we could work with you all on as this unfolds.
All that was a prologue to a Friday discovery response by UCLA, releasing more public records, illuminating how they processed two open records requests made by GAO’s Chris Horner on behalf of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). Those requests were made of UCLA’s law school, which runs a climate litigation center, like Harvard’s and indeed underwritten by the same donor.
Therefore, with Los Angeles counsel James Hunter, GAO is suing on behalf of CEI.
UCLA was a logical place for public records requests after we obtained an agenda — litigating as a predecessor organization against the Vermont Office of the Attorney General — showing that its Law faculty also presented at the “secret meeting at Harvard”. The Vermont OAG fought us for 18 months to avoid releasing that one and, as wrong as it was, their own and the other participants’ obvious anxiety about that document was well-founded. See, e.g., “Law Enforcement for Rent”, and “State AGs for Rent”.
You may have seen one of these UCLA profs recently on 60 Minutes, as an apparently disinterested academic observer commenting on the Juliana v US litigation. It does turn out that she consults for the Climate Litigation Industry. She also had admiring things to say about plaintiffs’ lawyer Vic Sher running the municipalities’ lawsuits, with whom she apparently works in the course of that consulting relationship — more on that later.
These documents are in response to a discovery “Request for Production of Documents” relating to UCLA’s handling of the requests. GAO is pressure-testing UCLA’s claims that it handled these in due course and was not actually stonewalling over the past year. Although this is a limited set of records, what UCLA did release indicates the slow-walking was not the result of delays in the IT department, as the school has suggested. More on that, as well, in a bit.
The email records production nonetheless contains various slides sent to Prof. Ann Carlson for her presentations, including from Frumhoff and Sher. These lay out, for her use, the Climate Litigation Industry’s “ExxonKnew” theory and assignments of individual industry targets’ historic market share liability for, e.g., sea level rise 1880-2010.
You may have seen some of these slides; some were part of two public or quasi-public presentations, in LA and Bonn. A third — Frumhoff’s — was given privately “to AG staff”, according to those OSU emails. One email in the UCLA production states that Frumhoff’s contribution to Carlson’s public UCLA slide show constitute pp. 2-25 of her presentation beginning on the attachment PDF page 240. It seems that these represent some of Frumhoff’s slides that OSU deleted or otherwise could not manage to produce.
These, and other pages to be discussed in coming posts, add further texture to our understanding of how this organized assault on opponents of a political agenda took shape — along with the targeting of Golden Geese to underwrite political constituencies via a new mega-settlement that would be passed on to consumers. It helps further reveal the anatomy of the weaponization of our law enforcement institutions against political opponents (in this case, we’re talking about state attorneys general).
UCLA’s actual production of records it has been withholding, and the privilege log attendant to that, are still to come. Even Friday’s production of certain records about the school’s handling of the requests showed there is much more there to be learned that is valuable about this industry.
The entire email dump (and slides) are here: