A group of Democratic state attorneys general and former Vice President Al Gore have announced the creation of a coalition of "top law enforcement officials" to investigate whether oil companies committed fraud in order to hide the effects their businesses have on global climate.
Speaking at a press conference at his Manhattan office Tuesday afternoon, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said the group would look for "creative ways" to use existing law to investigate whether "fossil fuel companies" have "profited from the confusion" those companies have allegedly sown over global warming.
He said the group of 20 state attorneys general would work together "creatively, collaboratively, and aggressively," to expose what Schneiderman repeatedly characterized as fraudulent activity. He also said oil companies would find no shield in the First Amendment for their actions, which he said denied the accepted scientific fact that global climate is rapidly changing, and fossil fuels are largely to blame for it.
"The First Amendment does not give you the right to commit fraud," Schneiderman said, alleging that a web of "morally vacant" oil companies, trade associations and free market public policy groups had deliberately misled the public and investors on the dangers of man man-made climate change.
In a statement released after the press conference, Schneiderman said his office is investigating whether integrated oil giant ExxonMobil included "misleading financial statements and disclosures" in its filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Gore, who noted that he flew in from the Philippines to attend the event, said that increasingly destructive weather events, increasing Arctic ice melt, as well as the rapid spreading of infections such as the Zika virus, made watching the evening news "like a nature hike through the Book of Revelations."
"We cannot continue to allow the fossil fuel industry or any industry to treat our atmosphere like an open sewer or mislead the public about the impact they have on the health of our people and the health of our planet," Gore said.
The former vice-president
likened the coalition's action to that of the states and federal government in the 1990s aimed at what Gore called "the fraudulent activities" of the nation's largest tobacco companies.
A group of 40 states sued the tobacco companies to recoup their costs for providing health care to smokers through Medicaid and other programs. The suits were settled in 1998, resulting in the tobacco companies paying the states a minimum of $206 billion over a 25 year period.
Gore extended his critique of the oil industry, however, charging that it had engaged in efforts to thwart the adoption of alternative energy sources, such as wind and solar power, through taxes and "phony requirements" to hamper the entire alternative energy sector.
Gore's investment company, Generation Investment Management, LLP, owns shares in alternative energy companies, such as SolarCity. The firm's private equity arm has several million dollars invested in an array of alternative energy and sustainability start-ups.
Critics of the new coalition charge that the attorneys general are more interested in money than climate change.
Chris Horner, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, told AMI Newswire that "global warming is a big business," and that the coalition is really a front for "lawmakers, academics, and the 'green' lobby [to] demand that prosecutors use the law to extort money from legitimate businesses who oppose them, under threat of RICO investigations and prosecution."
"The objective is to silence political opposition," Horner said, as well as to "extract a vow not to support other opponents and, finally, to force companies to underwrite the global warming industry with a settlement to fund further activism."
Horner said the green lobby itself should be investigated for both its tactics and its use of public funds.
"Demanding the Justice Department or a state attorney general employ the awesome power of government against political opponents," Horner charged, "is cowardly bullying."