The New York state attorney general on Wednesday urged a Texas congressman to show "due respect for federalism" as the lawmaker's office pushes to obtain communications about state investigations into whether Exxon Mobil made misleading statements about climate change.
FILE - In this March 21, 2016 file photo, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman speaks at a new conference in New York.
In turn, the executive director of 350.org-one of the eight groups targeted-issued a blistering response.
The panel has demanded that state attorneys general hand over any records of consultations the prosecutors had with outside environmental groups before their probes were opened.
The Union of Concerned Scientists expressed deep concern over a subpoena issued by House Committee on Science, Space and Technology Chairman Lamar Smith. Several state attorneys general are investigating ExxonMobil for deceiving the public and shareholders about climate change.
"The requests served upon Greenpeace and 350.org simply can not be squared with the Committee's stated concerns regarding freedom of speech and scientific inquiry", the groups wrote.
He wants all communications between Schneiderman, a Democrat, and the other so-called "Green 20" attorneys general, as well as groups blaming fuel burning for global warming.
"Based on the partisan tone of the July 6th letter, we are concerned that the true goal of the Committee's requests is not to examine the science of climate change, but rather to silence those who would shine a spotlight on the role of the fossil fuel industry, and ExxonMobil in particular, in undermining climate science and blocking and delaying meaningful action on climate change", the groups wrote.
The committee's action came after the House's effort of roughly two months to compel Schneiderman and others to voluntarily give up a number of records related to the Exxon investigation, which looks at whether the company lied to investors and the public about what it knew about climate change and the energy giant's potential role in aggravating its impacts.
In a letter Wednesday, Schneiderman lawyer Leslie Dubeck says the committee lacks the constitutional authority for oversight of his state duties - investigating Exxon Mobil's possible violations of New York's fraud statute.
"The actions by the attorneys general amount to a form of extortion", he said.
"Rep. Smith's acceptance of large donations from Big Oil and Gas provides explanation into his history of baseless attacks against climate science", the groups 350.org and Greenpeace USA said in a statement. This begs the question of how much campaign financing Smith gets for his "prolific" defense of the fossil fuel industry.
Exxon, which has said that it has acknowledged the reality of climate change for years, called the subpoena unreasonably burdensome and intrusive.