Controversies

Vermont AG sued for withholding records on possible investigation of 'climate change deniers'

Vermont’s Attorney General is being sued for withholding public records related to a multi-state investigation of groups opposed to climate change policies.

On Monday, two nonprofit legal centers filed a lawsuit to force Attorney General William Sorrell and Assistant Attorney General Scott Kline to turn over documents from private email accounts that discuss climate change “deniers.”

The complaint, filed by attorneys for the Energy and Environment Legal Institute and Free Market Environmental Law Clinic, says a request for documents was made on May 10 but not responded to by the extended deadline of May 24 — the longest extension allowable under Vermont law.

According to the complaint, the groups seek discussions with Matt Pawa, an environmental lawyer for the Climate Accountability Institute; Lem Srolovic, chief of the New York Attorney General’s Environmental Protection Bureau; Eric Schneiderman, New York’s attorney general; and John Passacantando, former executive director of Greenpeace USA. The requests contain keywords relating to a possible investigation being led by attorneys general of multiple states.

Records obtained from a prior request made in March show Sorrell and Kline have been working with Schneiderman, Srolovic and anti-fossil fuel activists on launching investigations into ExxonMobil and conservative think tanks generally opposed to climate change agendas.

“When we first submitted a public records request to Vermont in March, they seemed to follow the letter of that state’s freedom of information law, promptly turning over relevant documents in a very timely manner,” David Schnare, general counsel for Energy and Environment Legal Institute, said in a statement.

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