Congressional Climate Science Witch Hunt to Start Hearings

U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith will continue his crusade against parties investigating ExxonMobil with a hearing in September.
U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith will continue his crusade against parties investigating ExxonMobil with a hearing in September.

The ongoing climate science witch hunt led by U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas will morph into a new phase on Sept. 14.

Smith, chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, announced a hearing on that date, intended to reaffirm the committee’s authority to issue subpoenas to parties investigating ExxonMobil’s alleged suppression of climate change information. The committee will also discuss recourse for the state attorneys general and NGOs that so far have refused to submit emails and documents requested by subpoena.

Smith’s scheduling of this hearing comes a week after the attorneys general of New York and Massachusetts reaffirmed their refusal to cooperate with the committee’s subpoenas.

Experts expected to testify include three law professors:

  • Jonathan Turley of George Washington University, the one “liberal” witness whose legal opinions have been celebrated on Breitbart News and has recently suggested that Donald Trump’s “extreme vetting” policy is legal.
  • Elizabeth Price Foley of Florida International University. Earlier this summer, Foley insisted the “climate prosecutors” including Greenpeace and the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) must comply with Smith’s subpoena requests.
  • Chapman University’s Ronald D. Rotunda, who the National Enquirer interviewed about Hillary Clinton’s connection to Daesh (otherwise known as ISIS, ISIL or IS). Rotunda also suggested to Breitbart News that Clinton could nominate President Obama to the Supreme Court.

As of press time, the Democrats on the Science Committee have yet to name any witnesses.

As David Hasemyer of Inside Climate News reported on Wednesday, Foley and Rotunda both publicly criticized the state attorneys general involved in the ExxonMobil investigation. They also have ties to think tanks financed by the fossil fuel sector.

The NGOs primarily involved in this legal tug-of-war, Greenpeace and UCS, remain unimpressed with what appears to be a meeting of right-leaning minds instead of a fair and balanced hearing. Both organizations responded in kind.

“Science Committee Republicans are planning to hold a hearing to determine if the subpoenas they’ve already served are constitutional,” said Annie Leonard, executive director of Greenpeace USA, in a public statement issued on Tuesday. “Shouldn’t they have determined this before creating yet another distraction from bipartisan progress on climate change?”

UCS also made it clear that its executives will not budge.

“From the outset, Chairman Smith has overstepped his authority with this investigation,” UCS President Ken Kimmell wrote in an emailed statement to TriplePundit. “He has consistently mischaracterized our work in repeated, convoluted attempts to justify his efforts.

“It is telling that after issuing broad, unilateral subpoenas, he is now holding a hearing to figure out if his actions are legitimate. However, Chairman Smith stacks this hearing with friendly witnesses; it’s clear that he’s on shaky legal ground.

“We will continue to stand firm against this abuse of power and defend our First Amendment rights. While our offer to brief the House Science Committee still stands, we will not comply with an unconstitutional subpoena, nor will we stop working to expose misinformation on the science of climate change.”

UCS claims it is willing to meet with the committee and that the documents under question are already publicly available on the NGO’s website. Greenpeace has been far less conciliatory, and called Smith out for what it calls his regurgitation of ExxonMobil’s talking points on climate change that are now 20 years old. Another NGO mired in this legal battle, 350.org, dismissed the hearing — describing it simply as more “buffoonery” on the part of Smith.

The attorneys general who in particular have been the target of Smith’s ire, Maura Healey of Massachusetts and New York’s Eric Schneiderman, also pushed back against the congressman, fomenting the criticism of publications such as the Wall Street Journal. Schneiderman described the subpoenas as violating his state’s sovereignty.

The odds are close to nil that this confrontation will end any time soon as both sides refuse to budge, especially during a presidential election year. But the fact that Smith continues to rack up political donations from the fossil fuel industry also reveals an investigation that, at a minimum, is political posturing and at its worst a crusade against climate science fueled by corruption.

Image credit: Flickr/NASA HQ

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Based in Fresno, California, Leon Kaye has written for TriplePundit since 2010. He has lived across the U.S., as well as in South Korea, Abu Dhabi and Uruguay. Some of Leon's work can also be found in The Guardian, Sustainable Brands and CleanTechnica. You can follow him on Twitter (@LeonKaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost).

3 responses

  1. Well we all know what this is. Lamar Smith (R-Tex), probably the first Chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology in history to be so blissfully ignorant of the entire practice, application, and interpretation of the very science and technology he supposedly oversees, is going on one of these newly popular Republican fishing trip. The Head of the House Science Committee–who calls evolution “only a theory” and believes that God personally keeps an eye out for the well-being of the US of A (His favorite country), is subpoenaing huge amounts of data, reports, private correspondences, notes–in fact everything he can get his hands on–from climate change advocates. His purpose is not to check their methodology and verify their estimates and calculations. Smith is completely unqualified to do anything even remotely like that. His sole purpose is to comb through this mountain of documents looking for evidence of collusion, conspiracy, falsification; any tiny shadow of a doubt or hint of impropriety that could then be blown up sufficiently to cast any sort of doubt on the scientists’ findings. To Smith and his knuckle-walking cronies, ANY hint of a mistake will be used to beat ACC to death.

    This is beyond outrageous. This is Stalinist. This is North Korean. This is the government — no, not the government — the *Republican* government deliberately and with malice aforethought tampering with and threatening the work of some very highly respected and capable scientists simply because the Republicans are afraid that if the ACC people are right (And they are. By now any rational and reasonable informed person knows they are), there’ll be a little less slop in the troughs for the Republicans and their friends.

  2. Trying to figure out how the US Congress has authority over the activities of States Attorneys General. Seem like a little bit of Congressional overreach, not to mention a violation of states rights.

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