This story has been updated.
The House science committee has issued a pair of subpoenas this week to the attorneys general of New York and Massachusetts, demanding documents and communications with federal agencies related to climate change, environmental research and the Clean Power Plan.
This is the second time in a year that the Committee on Science, Space and Technology has subpoenaed the pair, who are leading investigations into whether energy giant ExxonMobil deliberately concealed its knowledge of climate change in the past. Neither complied with the previous subpoena, which was issued last July.
The subpoena issued this week demands that the two turn over certain climate-related documents and communications from their offices and any documents related to the “investigation or potential prosecution of companies, nonprofit organizations, scientists or other individuals related to the issue of climate change.”
ExxonMobil was not mentioned by name, according to a copy of the subpoena obtained by E&E News. The subpoena comes just a few weeks after former ExxonMobil chief executive Rex Tillerson was sworn in as the President Trump’s secretary of state.
In a statement emailed to The Washington Post, a press secretary for New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said that “with Exxon’s former CEO — a key figure in Attorney General Schneiderman’s fraud investigation — now serving as President Trump’s Secretary of State, we’re not surprised that Exxon’s lobbyists were able to buy another flimsy House subpoena,” adding that the investigation “will not be deterred.”
A statement from Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey’s office has also confirmed that Healey does not intend to comply with the subpoena and notes that “the Committee has no jurisdiction over these state investigations.”
Schneiderman first launched his investigation into ExxonMobil in 2015, focusing on whether the company deliberately misled investors and the public about the risks of climate change. Such action could be in violation of certain New York laws, including the Martin Act, a statute that protects investors. Since then, multiple other state attorneys general — including Healey — have jumped on board, opening their investigations into ExxonMobil’s conduct.
The investigation has become increasingly fraught in the past year. Both Schneiderman and Healey issued subpoenas last year calling on ExxonMobil to produce certain documents related to climate change. And in October, the New York State Supreme Court ordered the company to turn the documents over, despite ExxonMobil’s vow to challenge the decision.
In the midst of the ongoing investigations, the House science committee issued subpoenas to both Schneiderman and Healey last summer, as well as a number of environmental groups, “to obtain documents related to coordinated efforts to deprive companies, nonprofit organizations, scientists and scholars of their First Amendment rights,” according to a statement issued by the panel at the time.
In a letter accompanying the reissued subpoena, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.), chair of the science committee, noted that the reissued subpoena was part of a continued “investigation of potential adverse effects of the actions of the ‘Green 20’ attorneys general on the national scientific enterprise.” The “Green 20” was a name applied to a group of state attorneys general who vowed last March to address the issue of climate change, in part by holding fossil-fuel companies accountable for any efforts to combat or suppress climate science.
Not all members of the House committee stand behind its recent action. In a statement Thursday, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (Tex.), ranking Democrat on the panel, said the subpoenas “are symbolic of the Majority’s anti-science agenda and their efforts to shield oil, gas, and mining interests, such as ExxonMobil, from legitimate oversight and public accountability.”
“The subpoenas issued by the Majority today are clearly an effort to derail appropriate law enforcement actions of State Attorneys General who are investigating potential acts of fraud by ExxonMobil against their shareholders,” she said. “These politically motivated actions undermine legitimate congressional oversight authority and further diminish the reputation of the Science Committee.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the subpoenas called on the attorneys general to testify before the House science committee. The subpoenas only ask that they provide the communications and other documents requested.