R.I. lawsuit seeks to expose political nature of climate change prosecutions
By NBP Staff | July 28, 2016, 6:21 EDT
PROVIDENCE – Two national public interest groups are suing Rhode Island’s attorney general, whom the groups claim formed a “secret pact” with climate change lobbyists and other state attorneys general to prosecute those who raise questions about global warming.
On Wednesday, Washington, D.C.-based Free Market Environment Law Clinic and the Energy & Environment Legal Institute filed suit in Providence Superior Court against the Rhode Island Department of the Attorney General, seeking specific records detailing that office’s collaboration with other attorneys general investigating those who disagree with the prevailing wisdom on climate change.
Earlier this year, 19 Democratic attorneys general, including Rhode Island AG Peter Kilmartin and Massachusetts AG Maura Healey, announced the formation of AG’s United for Clean Power, a collaborative effort designed to promote legal action against the fossil fuel industry, the American Legislative Exchange Council and other “climate change deniers.”
Last fall, New York AG Eric Schneiderman launched a criminal investigation into Exxon Mobil, alleging the company attempted to cover up scientific evidence of global warming. In June, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey issued a subpoena for decades of documents and records from conservative think tanks such as the Washington-based Heritage Foundation and Boston’s Beacon Hill Institute that have produced policy papers poking holes in certain climate change research and critiquing various proposed environmental policies.
The suit filed in Rhode Island on Wednesday by pro-energy groups alleges that Kilmartin’s office withheld documents related to his office’s involvement in the effort to coordinate such strategies.
In particular, the suit alleges that Kilmartin withheld evidence of a “common interest agreement” which, they allege, is actually a sweeping effort by the attorneys general to exempt themselves state open records laws with respect to any discussions regarding the topics of energy and climate. The suit claims that the AG’s office violated the Access to Public Records Act, Chapter 38-2 of the Rhode Island General Laws and seeks to vindicate the public’s right to a transparent and open government by asking the court to require Kilmartin to produce the requested records.
The groups believe that the documents they seek will corroborate their claim that the attorneys generals have engaged in a witch hunt style effort to use the power of law enforcement to silence legitimate scientific and political debate.
NBP staff writer Kelly Thomas contributed to this report.