Court orders NY AG to turn over secret climate change doc
The New York Supreme Court has ordered Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to turn over a document containing a secret agreement with other states and environmental activist groups regarding the witch hunt being carried out against Exxon and other climate skeptics.
Schneiderman had fought the release on the grounds that the document wasn't covered under the state's Freedom of Information Act. But one of the targets of the witch hunt, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, filed suit for its release, and the court has now ordered it.
The Democratic prosecutor, who launched last year a probe into ExxonMobil, has fought the request for any pact made with other states or certain environmental activists, arguing that such documents are exempt from disclosure.
Sam Kazman, general counsel for the free market institute, called the court’s decision “a blow to the anti-speech campaign led by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.”
“While the campaign by him and his cohorts that began in March continues against those who disagree with him on global warming, we are glad to see that it is being held subject to the basic laws of the land,” Mr. Kazman said in a Monday statement.
“By requiring Schneiderman to fully comply with our freedom of information request, the court is ensuring that agencies cannot use shortcuts as a means of skirting New York’s Freedom of Information law,” he said.
n June, a member of Mr. Schneiderman’s staff denied the request on the grounds that it pertained to an active investigation, adding that a copy of the agreement had already been posted online by the Energy & Environment Legal Institute, thus rendering the issue moot.
In his Nov. 22 ruling, however, Justice Zwack said that the rejection of the institute’s request “was nothing more than a parroting of statutory language, and thus a complete failure in its obligation ‘to fully explain in writing … the reason for the denial of access.”
He added that it was unclear how many documents are involved given that Mr. Schneiderman’s staff had initially referred to “records responsible to your request” and later identified “only one document potentially responsive to the request.”
The justice also ordered Mr. Schneiderman’s office to pay attorneys’ fees and costs associated with the case.
After initially indicating that there was more than one document, the A.G.'s office backpedaled. No explanation was ever given for the discrepancy, which the N.Y. Supreme Court will now try to sort out.
The agreement itself is probably innocuous. But any supporting documents may reveal strategies that could prove highly embarrassing to the Democratic A.G.s, proving that the "investigation" is a partisan witch hunt designed to shut down opposition to government climate change policy.
Exxon can take care of itself. It's the small think-tanks and even individuals who are strapped for cash and unable to counter the massive resources of state attorney general offices to defend themselves adequately who warrant concern.
Hopefully, this decision will level the playing field somewhat.