From the but, but, but David Legates! department
By CHRIS HORNER GAO,
Can’t Spell The Swamp Without E-P-A
Following up on this gem posted earlier, the topic of properly using — or misusing — law enforcement powers is one of great interest to GAO, which also runs ClimateLitigationWatch.org. The importance of the issue has become increasingly obvious in the past, say, four years. It became more topical still with the announcement of former California Attorney General Kamala Harris as Joe Biden’s running mate.
Expect more news in coming days and weeks on then-AG Harris’s actual role with the climate litigation industry, about which she has expressed some confusion. For now, bearing in mind the new demand for an Inspector General report on why career EPA lawyers aren’t left to run amok, harken back to the infamous March 29, 2016 press conference with investor Al Gore at which 17 state attorneys general offices were represented (including Harris’s) to announce that, given persistent democratic resistance to the “climate” agenda, AGs would use law enforcement to impose it anyway.
Massachusetts AG Maura Healey suggested that the reason the climate movement had been frustrated by the democratic process is that dark forces managed to confuse people, causing them “to misunderstand and misapprehend” the facts as she sees them. Those forces were now going to pay.
Literally. One participant, U.S. Virgin Islands AG Claude Earl Walker, wrote to his colleagues in advance of the pre-presser strategy session and hush-hush pre-briefing that, after extracting an $800 million settlement from Hess Oil, “We are interested in identifying other potential litigation targets.”
Visions of a climate settlement fund in the hundreds of billions of dollars, modeled after the tobacco settlement and again for distribution among political constituencies, danced in the AGs’ heads
Walker had just emerged from obscurity with a disgraceful torrent of subpoenas of over 100 groups and individuals in an effort to silence political opposition. As the Washington Times reported, “Mr. Walker has been the most aggressive member of AGs United for Clean Power, an unprecedented coalition of 17 attorneys general aimed at pursuing fraud accusations against Exxon Mobil and other fossil fuel companies.”
These broad subpoenas covered years of, e.g., donor information of targeted non-profit organizations, most of which had first appeared on an environmentalist pressure group’s target list. See, e.g., Valerie Richardson, “Virgin Islands Attorney General Claude Walker used Greenpeace list to target climate change skeptics: Listed names decry effort to silence climate change dissent.”
You see, he had to “make it clear …that we have to do something transformational” about climate change. Mr. Walker also boasted of this in those same pre-meeting suggestions to the other AGs.
The press conference represented the high-water mark of a disastrous campaign to pursue political opposition to the climate agenda as racketeering, under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO. AGs fled the coalition as open records requests poured in to reveal how these institutions came to be used this way (the answers are very ugly). The first test case, in New York, began as the Climate Trial of the Century and fizzled out as an accounting dispute, ultimately blowing up on NY OAG, whose effort the defense “eviscerated”.
Walker himself was also in for a rough ride, though he was ultimately saved from sanctions for his behavior by the District of Columbia Courts.
Mr. Walker apparently finds DC quite hospitable, having relocated there where he has been quietly brought into the Trump Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). As a Deputy Director, apparently for Criminal Enforcement of all things.
A Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against EPA by GAO on behalf of the transparency group Energy Policy Advocates produced numerous items of interest regarding this development (while not answering how this came about), including the resume Mr. Walker used to score the position. CLW was rather surprised to see his top marquee career achievement.
That important national investigation Mr. Walker launched involved a supposed anti-racketeering investigation that subpoenaed parties for sharing the common trait of having opposed the “climate” political agenda. One which collapsed the moment it was subject to open-records scrutiny.
MAJOR ACHIEVEMENT: Launched important national environmental investigation” — New Environmental Protection Agency Enforcement attorney Claude Earl Walker, on the ill-fated 2016 ‘Climate RICO’
One target of Mr. Walker’s subpoenas was the Competitive Enterprise Institute. CEI responded to Walker’s subpoenas by noting, “You are entitled to your opinions on public policy, but you have no right to wield your power as a prosecutor to advance a policy agenda by persecuting those who disagree with you.”
Another target of the subpoenas described them to a state court as “a pretextual use of law enforcement power to deter [it] from participating in ongoing public deliberations about climate change and to fish through decades of [its] documents with the hope of finding some ammunition to enhance Attorney General Walker’s position in the policy debate.”
When challenged, then-Attorney General Walker quickly withdrew this fusillade of subpoenas, though this apparent abuse of power became the subject of CEI’s move for sanctions. After which, someone decided he needs to be in a senior position of federal environmental law enforcement. If not, mind you, so much that such an otherwise very newsworthy hire warranted drawing attention to it.
One can understand the reticence, by whoever engineered this, to announce the hiring. It does make Swamp Denial a little more difficult.
Here’s to more government accountability and oversight.