With Trump’s anticipated roll-backs of the Obama administration’s environmental protection Rules, and with a significant portion of EPA staff on the fiscal chopping block for the upcoming budget, the environment is facing a multi-pronged attack.
Congresswoman Barbara Comstock, in her role on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, has the power to play a part in helping to protect the environment. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that she will. Read on, to learn more.
Tomorrow, the full Committee (chaired by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) will hold a hearing titled: Climate Science: Assumptions, Policy Implications, and the Scientific Method. The Hill reports that Smith has invited several witnesses, “including two scientists who made their names opposing the central tenets of man-made climate change, and another who has said its impact on the Earth is overstated.”
The hearing, which begins at 10 AM will be broadcast live on the Committee’s website, and on Youtube.
This Science Committee, of which Ms. Comstock is a proud member, has been working on a project that many people may not know about. For months now, Committee Chairman Lamar Smith and a group of other Republican members have continued to issue subpoenas to a group of state Attorneys General who have been investigating Exxon for potentially fraudulent statements on man-made climate change. Included in this Democrat dragnet are the AGs of Massachusetts and New York: Maura Healey and Eric Schneiderman, respectively.
“This is about facts, and science, and transparency,” said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, who spoke at a press conference alongside New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, former Vice President Al Gore and seven other Attorneys General.
“Fossil fuel companies that deceived investors and consumers about the dangers of climate change should be, must be held accountable,” Healey continued, saying there is a “troubling disconnect between what Exxon knew, what industry folks knew and the company and industry chose to share with investors and the American public.”
In a statement earlier this month to explain his motives, Rep. Smith wrote, “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 demand letters have been sent to the AGs in at least 20 states and territories, along with a handful of environmental groups, including the Union of Concerned Scientists, Greenpeace, the Climate Reality Project, and the Rockefeller Family Fund. While the subpoenas themselves were signed by Smith, alone, the demand letters were signed by 13 Republican Committee Members. Ms. Comstock was not a signatory.
VA10Congressional reached out to Comstock’s staff, in an effort to discover if she, nevertheless, supported the leadership’s efforts. This was the response received:
The short answer is, yes, Congresswoman Comstock supports these investigations into the Attorneys General and environmental groups, who are in turn, investigating Exxon for alleged fraud.
The investigation into Exxon has begun to yield fruit, which may be spurring Republicans into action. On March 14, news broke that New York AG Eric Schneiderman and his document review team discovered that former Exxon Chairman and current Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, used an alias email, “Wayne Tracker,” account for years in order to discuss climate change matters with other Exxon employees. These emails were inadvertently produced by Exxon in response to subpoenas by the AG.
Mr. Schneiderman explained, “Despite the company’s incidental production of approximately 60 documents bearing the ‘Wayne Tracker’ email address, neither Exxon nor its counsel have ever disclosed that this separate email account was a vehicle for Mr. Tillerson’s relevant communications at Exxon, and no documents appear to have been collected from this email account.”
Accidental document productions like these, during the discovery phase of a fraud trial are a giant legal OOPS. Ms. Comstock, as an attorney herself, is clearly aware of this. She should be advising the Committee that this Congressional attempt to derail an active investigation into potential fraud committed by an international corporation is inappropriate, on its face.
Usually, when Ms. Comstock is asked why she votes to approve particularly stomach-turning legislation, such as striking down Rules that prevent wolf and bear cubs from being hunted in their dens while hibernating, she falls back on the explanation, “It’s a states’ rights issue.” Apparently, that doesn’t bother her in this case. Paradoxically, it is ranking minority Member, Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), who pointed out that the right to investigate fraud by state Attorneys General is, in fact, a state’s right.
So far, the AGs have refused to comply with the subpoenas. However, Comstock’s Science Committee continues to send them correspondence, including threatening them with contempt.
As the sustained fight to protect the environment continues, Ms. Comstock will be one to watch. VA-10 may be interested to note that their own Attorney General, Mark Herring, is among the group being threatened by their Representative.
Several states may be risking the contempt of Congress. Worse still, Barbara Comstock is actively courting the contempt of her constituents.