Commentary

National Clean Power Group Serves Fraudulent Subpoena to Silence Opposition

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Two weeks ago, I provided commentary on AGs United for Clean Power, a group of attorneys general who went public in late March, openly announcing their plans to prosecute and serve subpoenas to entities that have opposing views on energy policy. Maine’s own attorney general Janet Mills is part of this coalition to squash free speech and incriminate law-abiding citizens and organizations simply because of a difference in opinion.

Despite their self-described mission to preserve existing energy policy that combats climate change and advocates clean energy practices, the group turned a blind eye to the corrupt failure of SunEdison, one of the world’s largest renewable energy development companies. I described how SunEdison, the clean energy poster child, was on the verge of bankruptcy in late April despite the billions of dollars it received in federal subsidies and loan guarantees, and the company officially filed for bankruptcy 24 hours after that column was published.

Now, AGs United for Clean Power has served its first subpoena, sardonically coming on Earth Day, attacking the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) for their opposing views on energy policy. Claude Walker, the attorney general for the Virgin Islands, served CEI a subpoena that ordered they release documents concerning the institute’s own research on global climate change.

Walker says his investigation into CEI is a deliberate effort to “make it clear to our residents as well as the American people that we have to do something transformational” on climate change, stop “relying on fossil fuels” and “look at reliable energy.”

CEI is fighting back, however, and Walker’s investigation will surely hold no water in a United States courtroom. Like an unlearned tailback leaping into the end zone rather than taking a knee in the waning seconds of a football game, Walker made a rookie error when he started his inquiries into CEI.

The Daily Signal noted Walker made “crucial procedural mistakes” in launching his investigation, unearthing that no court in the Virgin Islands actually issued the subpoena served to the policy institute. Instead, Walker issued the subpoena on his own accord.

Because the subpoena wasn’t issued by a court and isn’t part of pending litigation, the subpoena can’t be domesticated in a jurisdiction outside of the Virgin Islands. This means the CEI, located in the District of Columbia, need not comply with Walker’s erroneous inquisitions, as Walker and his crooked cohorts have no jurisdiction to file this injunction.

CEI’s attorney, Andrew Grossman, well-versed in energy law as a lawyer at BakerHostetler and co-founder of the Free Speech in Science Project, is standing firmly against Walker and the group of attorneys general. Grossman has called Walker’s investigation “a blatant attempt to intimidate and harass an organization for advancing views that you oppose,” and noted the attempt as a means “to punish [CEI] for its public policy views, chill its associations and silence its advocacy.”

The attorney also contends Walker’s investigation violates the First Amendment, because “it constitutes an attempt to silence and intimidate, as well as retaliate against, speech espousing a particular viewpoint with which the Attorney General disagrees.”

Grossman also acknowledges that while Walker is permitted to hold his own views on climate change, he can’t legally use his power as a prosecutor to advance his own energy policy agenda by persecuting those who disagree with him, which is the nefarious procedure employed by all attorneys general who make up this coalition. He closed his objection to Walker by saying, “You can either withdraw [the subpoena] or expect to fight … the law does not allow government officials to violate Americans’ civil rights with impunity.”

Considering this information, it’s evident that AGs United for Clean Power is a faux coalition intended for the political left to unlawfully abuse its judicial authority and silence those who have differing viewpoints on energy policy. The group has no intentions to hold renewable energy companies accountable for their mistakes, and would rather serve subpoenas and prosecute companies that advocate and endorse lawful energy practices.

Collectively, their actions are both unconstitutional and disgraceful to citizens who expect their judicial leaders to operate within lawful limits. The group’s time and the public’s money would be better spent rooting out corruption in government and business opposed to launching witch hunts and fishing expeditions into companies and organizations that are operating within full means of the law.

About Jacob Posik

Jacob Posik, of Turner, is a policy analyst for the Maine Heritage Policy Center. He can be reached at jposik@mainepolicy.org.

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