Congressional Climate Science Witch Hunt Begins ‘Constitutional Obligation’ Hearings

Climate change, climate witch hunt, Lamar Smith, ExxonMobil, Leon Kaye, oil and gas, fraud,
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) is pushing back against Rep. Lamar Smith’s climate subpoenas.

Last week, U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, chair of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, held a hearing to investigate whether the Committee has the authority to investigate state attorneys general and NGOs.

State attorneys general, including those of New York and Massachusetts, along with environmental NGOs including Greenpeace and the Union for Concerned Scientists, are investigating ExxonMobil and other energy companies about their research on climate change and whether hiding findings resulted in shareholder and consumer fraud.

Smith’s subpoenas, which demanded documents and emails from NGOs and state attorneys, were met with a mix of silence and incredulity. Smith in turn refused to meet with any of the attorneys general or environmental groups, and scheduled Wednesday’s hearings in order to assert the Committee’s right to issue such broad subpoenas.

Smith and his allies claim such an investigation is needed to protect the First Amendment rights of companies, such as ExxonMobil, which he claims are unfairly targeted by rogue attorneys and special interest groups. Opponents say Smith is grandstanding and engaging in a 21st-century version of the Red Scare.

And few are immune to what Lawrence M. Krauss, a scientist based at Arizona State University, describes as Smith’s “anti-science rampage.” When the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) authored a paper that denied any “pause” in climate change, its director, Kathryn Sullivan, a former U.S. Navy Captain and astronaut, received one of Smith’s first subpoenas. And therein lies Smith’s ongoing climate science witch hunt, fueled in part by donations from the oil and gas industry.

The Science Committee’s ranking member, Eddie Bernice Johnson, a Democrat from Texas, called Smith out for what she says is overreach. “This hearing appears to be the culmination of a politically motivated ‘oversight’ agenda that has been applauded by oil, gas, and mining interests,” Johnson said in a public statement. “[It is] broadly condemned by the public, the media and the independent scientific community across the country and around the world.”

Johnson claimed that in the 58-year history of the Science Committee, it used its oversight authority to identify technical and scientific problems and work in a bipartisan fashion to find solutions. She also accused Smith of using the Science Committee as a political tool, while treating scientists such as Sullivan with contempt. Furthermore, Johnson blasted Smith as a tool of special interests — incidents range from using subpoenas to demand health records in order to disprove that air pollution is bad for public health, to demanding documents from the EPA to assist a foreign mining company as it sued the U.S. government over environmental regulations.

In any event, Johnson asserts that the First Amendment rights of ExxonMobil, or any company, are not protected when it comes to fraud. “The law is clear – fraud is not protected by the First Amendment,” Johnson said. “If any companies in the oil industry defrauded the public or their shareholders in their well-documented disinformation campaign on global warming, then that is a matter for the state AGs and the courts, not the Committee on Science.”

Professor Charles Tiefer of the University of Baltimore also pointed out that neither the Senate nor the House has ever subpoenaed a state attorney general in the 227-year history of Congress. Tiefer noted that investigations under state law by attorneys general fall under police powers reserved to the states without any federal interference.

Other expert witnesses called to testify, in the words of writer Scott K. Johnson, were invited by Smith “to tell him what he’s doing is just fine.” They gave Smith what he wanted by saying the New York attorney general was in on a corrupt deal with George Soros and environmental groups. Writing for The Hill, former Congressman Brad Miller of North Carolina described the hearing as “sticking its nose where it doesn’t belong.”

Do not expect this sideshow to end any time soon, especially in a presidential election year. House Republicans have long cried foul over President Barack Obama’s policies on climate change, public lands and oceans. And despite a two-year slump in energy prices, companies such as ExxonMobil still have the heft in their checkbooks to buy plenty of friends in Congress.

Image credit: House Science Committee

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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).

7 responses

  1. Lamar Smith ought to be drawn and quartered. The justice dept or the administration need to step in and show this moron that his reach is limited. What a farce!

  2. Climate Change love WAS never having to say; “proven”, no matter how close we get to the point of no return from unstoppable warming and certain death of the planet and all life on Earth.
    Are you neck tattooed liberal science scholars willing to make yourselves available for criminal charges for issuing needless CO2 death threats to our children after another 35 years of debate and climate action delay to SAVE THE PLANET from climate change?
    Who’s the neocon?

  3. I know it’s fashionable to bash anyone that questions climate change. But, I have a problem with the government using it as a club to beat people or entities into submission.
    If you compare climate change (climate deniers) to our looming debt crisis (debt deniers) a couple things become obvious. Our governments “out of control” spending will destroy this country long before climate change will. Yet, the popular press and liberal politicians have done everything in their power to discredit and vilify the tea party (people for fiscally responsible government), making all kinds of false accusations like racists, hate mongers, obstructionists. Curiously, they treat climate deniers the very same way, so what do they have in common? They want to rein in government power and control. Conversely, debt deniers and climate change advocates want unbridled government power to save the world and bring prosperity to all Americas citizens.
    Most of the climate deniers that I’ve spoken to actually don’t deny climate change. They feel that their freedom lies in the balance, after all, what activity of man can’t be argued as contributing to climate change? Hence, what activity of man shouldn’t be regulated by a government tasked with curbing climate change?

    1. Be careful with those lucid, factual, comments, and analyses. The anti-American vermin, in the anti-American party, will call you a “racist”.

      OF COURSE there is climate change. If there weren’t, the planet would still be a steaming swamp, or an ocean of acid, depending on how far you want to turn back the clock.

      How about a mere 10000 years, to the last time there was an ice age, in Europe? “Think” cars made the ice melt?

      If it weren’t for climate change, nothing on Earth would have, or need, the ability to evolve.

      The REAL question is pollution. And the REAL issue is, should Americans give up their freedom, and prosperity, so the Russians, the Chinese, and the Indians, can CONTINUE to pollute, at break-neck speed, and in spectacular fashion. (You already need a gas mask, in order to safely venture outdoors, in many Russian, Chinese, and Indian, cities.)

      Those of us who are not interested in giving up our wealth, or our freedom, or the wealth, and freedom of our families, neighbors, and neighbor’s families, are not interested in “solutions” which are borne, ENTIRELY, by the backs of American taxpayers. ESPECIALLY since there are so few of us left.

      When it is safe for me to travel to any country, and any city, in the World, without fear of terrorism, kidnapping, or being poisoned by the air I breathe, THEN you can ask me for a “contribution”. In the meanwhile, me, and all the rest of the PRO-Americans, are all contributed-out.

  4. Congressman Smith’s investigation is a counter to the anti-American vermin, in the anti-American party, trying to abuse their gov’t power, against private enterprises which report facts on the man-made global climate-change hoax.

    At first, a bunch of attorneys general, ALL of whom are members of the anti-American party, started criminal “investigations” into various, private enterprises, attempting to paint them as having committed some sort of consumer fraud.

    But, when the backlash hit, only a couple of the most anti-American ones were left, to take the heat.

    Congressman Smith’s, correct, proper, legal, and REAL investigation, will determine what crimes those attorneys general committed, and push for the prosecution which they, so richly, deserve.

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