Documents obtained by a non-profit legal group allegedly reveal that more than a dozen U.S. attorney generals agreed to keep details of probes into energy firms secret.
The Energy and Environment Legal Institute said Thursday that it has obtained a copy of a “Common Interest Agreement” signed by 17 state and territorial attorneys generals earlier this year that was designed to keep the probes under wraps.
E&E Legal said the agreement was spearheaded by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman “clearly drafted to obstruct open-records requests, while these AGs carried out a political campaign against their critics.”
The agreement was obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request filed by E&E Legal.
“Here the AGs from many different states, apparently working with outside interest groups, came together to claim privilege for documents without the required shared reasonable anticipation of litigation, but in anticipation of open records requests,” the group said.
The agreement is related to probes being conducted into whether U.S. energy firms misled investors and the public about the risks posed by climate change.
E&E Legal added that the majority of the signatory AGs have disclaimed any investigation.
Signers of the Common Interest Agreement include: California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Washington State, Massachusetts, Illinois, Maryland, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia, US Virgin Islands and Vermont.
“This is far less a proper common interest agreement than a sweeping cloak of secrecy, one this ‘informal coalition’ is trying to cast over all discussions of their use of law enforcement to impose the ‘climate’ agenda. Including with outside activists and even donors,” E&E Senior Legal Fellow Chris Horner said.
While E&E Legal did not disclose if the agreement named any specific companies or individuals, ExxonMobil has been at the center of related legal efforts.
Exxon was the subject of media reports last year that alleged the company used climate data to make operational decisions while also working to publicly downplay climate science.
Exxon confirmed in November that it received a subpoena from New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for documents “relating to climate change.”
Schneiderman’s office has not commented on the matter.
Exxon has denied any wrongdoing and added that it has included information about climate related business risks for many years in its 10-K, Corporate Citizenship Report, and in other reports to shareholders.
Last month, the attorney’s general office of the U.S. Virgin Islands dropped a request for Exxon records that was made as part of a probe into the company.
Exxon asked a Texas federal court to dismiss a counter-lawsuit it had filed in response to the subpoena.
The media reports prompted two California congressmen to ask the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate whether Exxon failed to disclose “truthful information” about climate change.
The DOJ referred the request to the Federal Bureau of Investigation in March.
No official investigation has been ordered and the FBI is not obligated to investigate the matter.