In The News
From Real Clear Energy:
Emails between RBF and one of its partners in advocacy, the Center for a New Energy Economy at Colorado State University, reveal concern that these public records would find their way to the American public.
For example, RBF’s Northrop raised the prospect of mailing the notes instead of email, having been tipped off to one of Energy Policy Advocates’ records requests by the same New Mexico Energy Secretary.
Another correspondent gently suggested to Northrop that “Snail mail is probably subject to open records too, no?” Yes. Yes, it is.
Energy Policy Advocates and Rob Schilling previously filed a motion to intervene in the New York Attorney General’s case against ExxonMobil, which ended in a “debacle” for the activist NY AG (for three of them, in fact…). Their purpose is the limited one of unsealing certain records showing OAG’s relationship with the plaintiff’s tort lawyer Matt Pawa, who a major political and green-group donor suggests brought these investigations to the New York AG.
Open records productions exhaustively detailed on CLW prove he brought the pitch to go after his civil litigation targets to other AGs.
Alternately, under New York law, the Court must explain its reasoning for keeping sealed each record it says should remain free from public inspection.
To keep these records showing the relationship between a public agency and a tort lawyer, urging law enforcement go after the latter’s targets, from public examination Mr. Pawa himself sought to intervene, as a “friend of the court”.
EPA/Schilling’s response clarifies some apparent confusion about what a Friend of the Court is, and isn’t, while noting Mr. Pawa’s odd focus on ad hominem as a reason to allow him to try and keep communications with NY OAG from the public. While EPA/Schilling acknowledge the oddity of that move, to the extent the Court is willing to entertain motives,the group lays out an interesting history of Mr. Pawa’s advocacy to AGs, underwritten by charitable donors.
Of particular note, spot the news that this exhibit breaks.
From Energy in Depth:
Transparency in the Public Interest
According to the group’s website, EPA’s purpose is to “bring transparency to the realm of energy and environmental policy.” Their memo replying to the attorney general’s opposition (they refer to the attorney general by the acronym “OAG”) explains that they are acting in accordance with that mission:
“OAG has failed to offer in its papers any reason why the documents at issue are privileged, secret, sensitive, or otherwise exempt from public disclosure. The documents appear to reflect nothing more than communications between OAG and a lobbyist, where the lobbyist urges the use of the OAG’s awesome powers and taxpayer funded resources in what has proved a disastrous undertaking. The public has an absolute right to know how this came about, and how this Court has addressed the claims made by the parties. Intervention in this case is an appropriate procedural mechanism to make that happen.” (emphasis added)
In filing their motion to intervene, EPA and Schilling say they are only attempting to bring transparency and understanding to a case that has been muddled with the attorney general’s shifting arguments. EPA argues that the public – especially the New York taxpayers who footed the bill for their attorney general’s three-year investigation and subsequent “show trial” – has a right to know the information within these documents.
The Proof is in the Presentation
EPA and Schilling also fired back at the attorney general’s argument that the motion is untimely, explaining that the intervenors did not come forward earlier because they wanted to “enable a fair trial” without outside interference. They waited until the New York attorney general announced it wouldn’t appeal Justice Ostrager’s sweeping ruling against the public official in a case they fought based on evidence that doesn’t exist.
The memo also points out that EPA’s and Schilling’s motion comes “after obtaining similar ‘recruiting’ correspondence with Mr. Pawa from another Office of Attorney General.” This hints at one key document that this motion is hoping to reveal: a slideshow that Pawa presented to various state attorneys general over the years to encourage them to pursue climate litigation against ExxonMobil. This presentation was reportedly shown to Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey.
Read the entire post here.
Seeks Release of Memos Relating to “Climate Change” Plaintiffs’ Tort Campaign
Cites Unfolding Revelations of Tort Lawyer Influence on Attorneys General, AG Ferguson’s Practice of Improperly Withholding Non-Privileged Information, and New Records
OLYMPIA, WA – On Wednesday, the public interest law firm Government Accountability & Oversight, P.C. (GAO) filed a Public Records Act (PRA) lawsuit against Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s Office (OAG), seeking specific, unredacted emails and memos showing the interactions between OAG officials and a plaintiff’s lawyer, Matt Pawa, who has been exposed as recruiting attorneys general to pursue the targets of his tort litigation campaign.
The complaint was filed the same day the 9th Circuit federal court of appeals hears oral argument by Oakland and San Francisco appealing the dismissal of their “climate nuisance” lawsuits against energy companies. Those cases were originally brought by Mr. Pawa.
Records obtained in 2019 by the plaintiff, Spokane-based public records group Energy Policy Advocates (EPA), show that the day Ferguson’s Office received activist group petitions to investigate ExxonMobil, it circulated three memos about doing so. Two were dated in November 2015; one, a three-page memo to Deputy AG Rob Costello, was written that same day.
The memos’ production by OAG suggests that one or all of them, and several emails, cite to Pawa. EPA’s suit seeks these memos which, although redacted in full other than To, From, and Date, nonetheless reveal a fascinating chronology, and an OAG very attentive to activists.
Record requests to other AGs confirm the activist petitions, passed along by an official of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), were sent only to certain offices. WA OAG redacted all of its comments discussing this plea by activists to pursue their political opponents, which EPA also seeks in full or at least in more properly redacted form after review by a judge.
Public records EPA obtained from OAG’s counterparts at the Washington Department of Ecology — which is subject to the same records law, but chose to comply with it — reveal Ferguson’s Office searching for ways to join the litigation campaign against energy companies initiated by former New York AG Eric Schneiderman, and explaining why it did not. OAG improperly withheld from EPA these same non-privileged discussions about its involvement.
Wednesday’s suit comes on the heels of GAO’s recent request to unseal records between the New York OAG and Pawa who, emails obtained from other OAGs show, widely recruited attorneys general in his quest for “a single sympathetic attorney general” to subpoena records from the energy company targets of his civil litigation campaign. In December, New York’s AG suffered a humiliating loss in its costly trial against ExxonMobil filed as part of the AG/activist effort.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey refused for months to release her own Pawa correspondence, claiming it would undermine her ExxonMobil investigation. As the deadline came for her Office to answer EPA’s complaint — and respond to very specific, troubling factual allegations about Pawa’s relationship with and influence on Healey’s Office — OAG abruptly released all of the emails in dispute. These show that MA OAG insisted on hiding these similar records from the public improperly, as they are in no way investigative, but only embarrassing.
Mr. Pawa pitched numerous attorneys general offices to undertake these investigations. Other public records show Mr. Pawa or his firm gave this presentation seeking “sympathetic” law enforcement officers to aid his cause to, e.g., California’s OAG on January 14, 2016, Illinois OAG on March 21, 2016, Connecticut OAG on April 19, 2016, Maryland AG Brian Frosh on February 18, 2016, Massachusetts OAG on January 11, 2016, and to many AGs on March 29, 2016 — presentations the AGs and Mr. Pawa sought to conceal.
After speaking to major political donor Wendy Abrams one Illinois OAG aide wrote to a colleague, “The NY AG is investigating the company and [Abrams] wanted to know if this was something the AG may be interested in supporting or signing on to…Wendy says [Pawa] may have been the one to go to the NY AG’s office about Exxon.” Emails to IL OAG, and to Massachusetts’s OAG, affirm that Pawa was pitching the same news items arranged for by allies.
These materials reflect an effort by a tort lawyer to help his own cases by enlisting attorneys general to subpoena his targets. One federal court called this a “‘strateg[y] to win access to internal documents’ of fossil fuel companies”.
AG Ferguson participated in a briefing by Pawa prior to a press conference with investor Al Gore, at which AGs vowed to use whatever means necessary to impose climate policies through law enforcement. Emails showed that OAGs sought to keep this secret. This was followed by what one participant called a “secret” briefing by this campaign for AG staff and “prospective funders” in pursuit of “potential state causes of action against major carbon producers”.
GAO board member Chris Horner says, “Recently obtained public records about this campaign of recruiting AGs toward private ends make clear the public interest in releasing these memos. A UCLA law professor involved in the campaign indelicately, if candidly, described it to a funder as “going after climate denialism [sic]—along with a bunch of state and local prosecutors nationwide.” The public deserve to know how their institutions came to be employed this way.
“These records about a plaintiffs’ lawyer recruiting law enforcement to pursue private parties in aid of his litigation campaign are of immense public interest, and GAO looks forward to their release to the public, withholding only legitimately privileged and exempt information.”
Government Accountability & Oversight is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to transparency in public officials’ dealings on matters of energy, environment and law enforcement
From Real Clear Energy:
One state official from the Mountain West voiced the obvious concern among his team “to be careful about keeping” members of his political party [“Ds”] in office.
That is not always easy given friends like theirs. According to New Mexico’s [Energy Secretary Sarah Cottrell] Propst, the climate activist officials’ green group NGO allies — called NGOs, for non-governmental organizations — are “having [a] hard time pivoting from enemy approach to friend approach.”
Steyer’s delegate’s typed notes characterize the sentiment slightly differently: “NGOS have a hard time pivoting from enemy admin to friendly admin.”
Other notes indicate concern about how these groups are spending their billion-plus a year. California’s officials had the most to say, and they aren’t pleased (with the exception of the work of something called Fresh Energy, which has an enormous staff (27) that’s even bigger than its massive board (18)):
And the Rockefeller Brothers Fund head worries about the disconnect between donor-pets’ priorities and those of the politicians they love:
The notes indicate that former Obama Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz is not being helpful, saying mildly favorable things about natural gas: “Ernie Moniz saying gas is a bridge fuel.”
Meaning, gas as a replacement for coal while renewable energy continues its struggle to become reliable and economic. Climate activist politicians attempt this straddle with some regularity. But it simply is not acceptable to many environmentalists.
Ms. Frisch’s notes attribute the diagnosis of how this apostasy came about to California Air Resources Board Chair, and former Obama EPA official, Mary Nichols: “Moniz has not been well-managed.”
Hat-tip, Kate Gordon, Director of California Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, and Mary Nichols, Chair of California’s Air Resources Board.