Congressman Lamar Smith

Representing the 21st District of Texas
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Getting to the Bottom of a Climate Crusade

Mar 8, 2017
In The News

Transparency for thee, but not for me—that seems to be the motto of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. Last year they led a group of their colleagues—dubbed the “Green 20”—in a sweeping initiative to target dissenting views on climate change. Exxon Mobil, for instance, was asked to turn over decades of documents.

The Green 20 investigations have been criticized as blatantly political. Last year a federal judge overseeing Ms. Healey’s suit against Exxon expressed concern that she may be conducting it in “bad faith.”

For nearly a year, the congressional committee I lead has been trying to understand the effects of these investigations on scientific research. Unfortunately, the attorneys general have obstructed our inquiry at every turn. Last July, after two months of unanswered requests for information, the committee issued subpoenas to Mr. Schneiderman and Ms. Healey.

The subpoenas asked for communications between Green 20 offices and environmental activists. This would show the level of coordination in this campaign to harass and silence scientists who challenge prevailing climate-change orthodoxies. The attorneys general have refused to comply, hiding behind vague excuses.

The committee has not sought information about the investigations of Exxon. Instead, our interest is in discovering how this attempt at intimidation affects federally funded scientific research. Then we may consider changing the law to allow this research to continue.

The hypocrisy of the attorneys general here is evident—though perhaps understandable. Mr. Schneiderman has accepted nearly $300,000 in campaign donations from environmentalist donors, including members of the Soros family. He has also used the investigation as a way to curry favor with anti-Exxon billionaire Tom Steyer for a potential gubernatorial run, according to the New York Post.

Perhaps Mr. Schneiderman is afraid of what the House committee might confirm in the course of its investigation. Is he using his public office to advance the priorities of interest groups that support his personal political ambitions?

The American people deserve to know how Mr. Schneiderman’s and Ms. Healey’s actions affect the nation’s scientific community. By refusing to comply with congressional subpoenas, they have shown they have something to hide.

To borrow their premise, this obstruction is a coverup—and they must be held accountable for their hypocrisy. On Feb. 16, the House committee reissued the subpoenas, as is customary at the beginning of a new Congress. Although the attorneys general have not yet made any effort to cooperate, I remain hopeful that they will act in accordance with their public statements about transparency and accountability and will comply with the committee’s investigation.

Mr. Smith, a Texas Republican, is chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

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