The chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee has subpoenaed the attorneys general (AG) of New York and Massachusetts, as well as eight environmental organizations, demanding documents related to their investigation into ExxonMobil Corp. and climate change.

Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas said Wednesday the AGs "have appointed themselves to determine what is valid and what is invalid about climate change. It's at the expense of scientists' right to free speech. These investigations amount to a form of extortion."

Smith and the GOP members of science committee have since May sought information from New York AG Eric Schneiderman and Massachusetts AG Maura Healey into their investigation of ExxonMobil research about the effects of business activities on climate change. AGs from 15 states and the District of Columbia joined in the inquiry (see Daily GPIJune 30).

Schneiderman and Healey have refused to turn over documents, citing the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which protects state rights. Smith had given them until last Wednesday to comply.

"The committee has a responsibility to protect First Amendment rights of companies, academic institutions, scientists, and nonprofit organizations," Smith said. "Unfortunately, the attorneys general have refused to give the committee the information to which it is entitled. What are they hiding? And why?"

Schneiderman "will not be intimidated," spokesman Eric Soufer said. "Chairman Smith and his allies have zero credibility on this issue, and are either unwilling or unable to grasp that the singular purpose of these investigations is to determine whether Exxon committed serious violations of state securities fraud, business fraud, and consumer fraud laws."

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), Greenpeace and were among the groups subpoenaed.

"Smith is misusing the House Science Committee's subpoena power in a way that should concern everyone across the political spectrum," said UCS President Ken Kimmell. "Today, the target is UCS and others concerned about climate change. But if these kinds of subpoenas are allowed, who will be next and on what basis?

"We won't be intimidated by this tactic and will continue to provide states, our colleagues and the public with the best available scientific evidence on climate change and other critical issues. We encourage civil society organizations, elected officials and our fellow citizens to speak out to protect freedom of speech and to highlight their concerns about corporate responsibility and climate change."

Meanwhile, more than a dozen Democratic senators addressed the Senate before Congress recessed Thursday, claiming ExxonMobil and industry-backed groups had spun a "web of denial" to block legislation about climate change (see Daily GPIJuly 12).