Science Group Denounces Lamar Smith Subpoena

Statement by Ken Kimmell, President, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Jul 13, 2016

WASHINGTON (July 13, 2016)—The Union of Concerned Scientists expressed deep concern over a subpoena issued by House Committee on Science, Space and Technology Chairman Lamar Smith. The subpoena demands that the group turn over its communications with state attorneys general and other nonprofits “related to the issue of climate change.” Several state attorneys general are investigating ExxonMobil for deceiving the public and shareholders about climate change. 

Below is a statement by Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists. 

“Chairman Smith’s subpoena is an abuse of power that goes way beyond the House Science Committee’s jurisdiction and amounts to nothing more than harassment. By attempting to interfere with the attorneys general investigations, Chairman Smith directly undermines efforts to hold ExxonMobil accountable for misrepresenting climate science. It’s also just plain wrong to investigate a nonprofit for doing its job—in this case, providing public officials with science and evidence to hold fossil fuel companies accountable for deception on climate change, one of the world’s most pressing problems. 

“UCS has been completely transparent about our efforts to inform state prosecutors about whether ExxonMobil misled the public and its shareholders about climate change despite clear evidence that the company’s own scientists linked climate risks to the company’s product. We won’t apologize for trying to expose this deception. 

“Further, we do not accept Chairman Smith’s premise that fraud, if committed by ExxonMobil, is protected by the First Amendment. It’s beyond ironic for Chairman Smith to violate our actual free speech rights in the name of protecting ExxonMobil’s supposed right to misrepresent the work of its own scientists and deceive shareholders and the public.   

“It is also telling that just last week, the Chairman asked for a dialogue with us, but then proceeded to issue a subpoena within hours of our offer to brief committee staff on our work. These actions suggest that this investigation is more about public relations and political theater than fact finding. 

“Smith is misusing the House Science Committee’s subpoena power in a way that should concern everyone across the political spectrum. 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.”