Democratic attorneys general mounted a dogged defense Tuesday of their effort to prosecute climate skeptics amid signs that the 4-month-old campaign is deteriorating into a legal and public relations flop.
With a newly released poll showing an overwhelming majority of voters — including Democrats — oppose the investigation, the coalition of attorneys general pressed on, urging a federal court in Texas to uphold a subpoena filed by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey against Exxon Mobil.
“No company — no matter how rich or powerful — is above the law,” New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said in a statement. “Exxon’s lawsuit in Texas is nothing more than an attempt to put its practices beyond the reach of state prosecutors.”
The amicus brief filed in support of the Massachusetts investigation comes with the coalition showing signs of fraying after suffering a series of setbacks.
So far only three of the 17 attorneys general — those in Massachusetts, New York and the Virgin Islands — have acknowledged starting investigations into Exxon or other entities since unveiling AGs United for Clean Power at a March 29 press conference.
Even those probes have run into problems. In June, Ms. Healey placed her investigation on hold, saying she would not enforce the subpoena until the court battle with Exxon was resolved, which could take years, according to a document obtained by E&E Daily.
The Virgin Islands probe all but collapsed in June after Attorney General Claude E. Walker agreed to drop a subpoena issued against Exxon, a month after he said he would withdraw subpoenas of the free market Competitive Enterprise Institute. Both Exxon and the institute had fought the subpoenas.
Meanwhile, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller has so far refused to sign a common interest agreement allowing the prosecutors to communicate on their probes without disclosing the details to the public.
A January report in the Los Angeles Times said that California Attorney General Kamala Harris is investigating Exxon, but since then, her office has refused to provide details or even confirm that the probe is taking place.
While prosecutors typically refuse to comment on ongoing investigations, the coalition’s critics say the subsequent silence comes as an indication that some Democrats are having second thoughts about their March commitment in the face of fierce opposition.