Vermont is refusing to comply with a court order forcing officials to release communications about the state’s supposed involvement in a climate inquisition against fossil fuel groups, a conservative legal group said Monday.
Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan denied conservative group EE Legal’s request for communication between former Attorney General William Sorrell and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman about an ongoing quest to bring federal charges against oil groups. The attorney general’s Aug. 1 decision comes after a Vermont judge ruled in July that the state should release the Gmail communications.
“OAG is refusing to search for records on a nonofficial count we have already demonstrated to the courts the former AG used for work. Simultaneously, New York also refused to search an account we have established Eric Schneiderman used for this purpose,” EE Legal’s Matthew Hardin wrote in a press statement Monday.
EE Legal’s pursuit began in full after Schneiderman invited two prominent environmental activists to give presentations last March to a group of state prosecutors about “climate change litigation” and the “imperative of taking action now on climate change.”
Activists gave the presentations on the same day Schneiderman began condemning Exxon Mobil Corp. for “fraud” and “deceiving the American people.” The New York Democrat would eventually go on to investigate if Exxon had worked for decades to hide knowledge about the impact of climate change on the company’s financial health.
EE Legal obtained documents earlier this year that indicate Schneiderman used private emails during his Exxon investigation. The group explained in court documents in June that the crusading lawman submitted a privilege log of correspondence containing the email account. A judge recognized the account was used after a private review of the log.
The Daily Caller News Foundation obtained documents in March showing that an assistant attorney general at the New York attorney general’s office used his personal email account in 2012 to prepare for a meeting with various environmental organizations. The emails raise questions about how often Schneiderman’s office uses personal emails for professional meetings.
EE Legal also claims that Vermont’s decision is an example of the state’s failure to maintain a transparent government.
“Vermont’s current attorney general is the lawyer protecting former AG Sorrell’s work-related Gmails from public disclosure, and apparently also from compelling Sorrell to turn over to the government and to the public the very records that he created in the use of a taxpayer-funded office,” Hardin said. “This is not how a transparent government operates and the people of Vermont deserve better.”
Vermont’s attorney general’s office did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.
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