Home Energy and Environment Is There Any Reason Why AG Herring Shouldn’t Prosecute These @$#@!$s?

Is There Any Reason Why AG Herring Shouldn’t Prosecute These @$#@!$s?


Over at the Huffington Post, Elliott Negin (Senior Writer, Union of Concerned Scientists) writes about “Coal Companies’ Secret Funding of Climate Science Denial Exposed.” Among those companies is one — Alpha Natural Resources — that’s headquartered right here in Virginia. I’d also note that Alpha has donated a s***-ton of money over the years to Virginia politicians — over $2.2 million to Republicans and over $600k to Democrats — attempting to buy up our political system. Meanwhile, as the HuffPo article explains, Alpha “has been especially active in supporting the [climate science] denier network,” including “financial ties with a half dozen denier organizations, some which have direct links to billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch,” as well as “the Heartland Institute, which is probably best known for its billboard likening climate scientists to the serial killer Ted Kaczynski; and theAmerican Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which convenes conferences for its state legislator members featuring speakers who distort climate science and disparage renewable energy.”

So yeah, Alpha is the worst of the worst. The question is, can they be prosecuted? As I wrote a few months ago:

Virginia has its own RICO statute on the booksThis statute certainly should be looked at as a basis for state-level investigation and/or prosecution of fossil fuel companies based in, or with offices in, Virginia, who engaged in climate science denial.

Also note that Virginia AG Mark Herring stood with other states’ AGs, several of whom are looking at potential charges against fossil fuel companies for, among other things, whether they “properly disclosed financial risks related to climate change.” The potential consequences? “Some experts see the potential for a legal assault on fossil fuel companies similar to the lawsuits against tobacco companies in recent decades, which cost those companies tens of billions of dollars in penalties.” And if, as Mitt Romney argued, “corporations are PEOPLE,” then perhaps the AGs could go after fossil fuel executives as well? Anyway, it all needs to be looked into thoroughly by state Attorneys General, including Virginia’s, to determine what laws (if any) were broken and what penalties (if any) are applicable. Is there any good reason not to do this, and to do it ASAP, particularly given the raging climate crisis we now see unfolding? I can’t think of any.

  • Dave Webster

    As the Supreme Court wrote in West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette, “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion.” http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2016/04/11/attorney-generals-conspire-free-speech-schneiderman-harris-exxon-cei-column/82878218/

    • This has absolutely nothing to do with “opinion,” it has to do with corporations willfully committing fraud. As New York AG Schneiderman explains, “The first amendment does not give you the right to commit fraud.”

      • Dave Webster

        I have no plan. Merely calling something fraud doesn’t make it so. As the author of the article I linked states: Not everyone believes that the planet is warming; not everyone who thinks that it is warming agrees on how much; not everyone who thinks that it is warming even believes that laws or regulation can make a difference. Yet the goal of these state attorneys general seems to be to treat disagreement as something more or less criminal.

        • Wrong on all counts. 1) It’s not “merely calling something fraud,” there is major evidence that fraud has occurred here, which is why state AGs are involved; 2) it’s certainly not a matter of “believing” in man-made climate change — that’s a fact; 3) it’s not a matter of treating “disagreement as something more or less criminal,” it’s a matter of treating a potential crime (fraud) as criminal.

          • Dave Webster

            Schneiderman himself has been vague about his legal theory of prosecution. I can almost guarantee if he does anything it will be a New York securities law violation and not a straightforward criminal fraud case. In any event this case comes to close to the suppression of free speech rights for my tastes.

          • When a corporation spends millions of dollars to lie about their product, as the tobacco industry and the fossil fuel industry both did, it has nothing to do with “suppression of free speech rights” — it’s fraud. I just wish we could go after these sociopaths for destroying the planet for profit.

    • Meanwhile, what’s your plan to save the planet from catastrophic global climate chaos?