Governor sues Exxon through his new attorney general

Governor Bill Walker
Governor Bill Walker



What if you read the headline, “Alaska’s governor supports stopping ANWR development”?

You’d be understandably shocked. But by joining in a lawsuit against Exxon Mobil, that is exactly what Gov. Bill Walker is doing: He’s opposing development of Alaska’s Arctic energy potential.

Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth tried last week to explain that the Walker Administration suing Exxon Mobil is a 10th Amendment matter.

In her letter to House Speaker Mike Chenault and Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, Lindemuth said the lawsuit is merely a protection of our state’s rights and has nothing to do with climate change itself.

But let’s look at what’s behind the case.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and 16 other Democratic state attorneys general initiated the lawsuit earlier this year. This group calls itself “AGs United for Clean Power.” That is the organization Lindemuth is now part of, whether she knows it or accepts it.

In March, Schneiderman spoke plainly about the lawsuit’s premise: “The bottom line is simple: Climate change is real.”

Schneiderman, in his wisdom, has established climate change as a fact. Many of us agree with him on that point; in fact, anyone who has been on the planet for the last million years would likely agree that climate change is real. There is nothing illegal about climate change. Yet.

But he further argued that companies are committing fraud if they hold an opposite view from him concerning the quantifiable dangers of climate change.

In other words, there is only one view about the cause and the perils of climate change; any other view on the sliding scale of opinions is subject to litigation.

On Schneiderman’s state-funded web page, he lays it all out in his headlines:

“Unprecedented Coalition Vows To Defend Climate Change Progress Made Under President Obama And To Push The Next President For Even More Aggressive Action” 

“Attorneys General From California, Connecticut, District Of Columbia, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, Washington State And The US Virgin Islands Agree To Coordinate Efforts”

“Schneiderman: Climate Change Is The Most Consequential Issue Of Our Time. This Unprecedented State-To-State Coordination Will Use All The Tools At Our Disposal To Fight For Climate Progress”

This is what Walker and Lindemuth have agreed to be a part of. It would be one thing if Lindemuth was an elected official, but she is not. She is Walker’s attorney general.

When the Walker administration joined this lawsuit against Exxon Mobil, you could almost hear a gasp across the state of Alaska.

Here we are, an energy-producing state that has at least 150 years more of recoverable oil and gas to support the services of our state and provide jobs to thousands of people and energy to a world that needs it.

Let’s be clear that by filing an amicus brief on this case, our governor has sued one of our state’s major producers. Again.

Yet his attorney general would have us believe Walker doesn’t really believe in the merits of the case.

“Our decision to join the amicus brief does not and should not in any way reflect support for the merits of the Attorneys General’s underlying investigation,” Lindemuth wrote in her letter to Reps. Chenault and LeDoux.

“The amicus brief asserts, and I agree, that where there is a comprehensive process for challenging a subpoena in the courts of the Attorney General’s state, that challenge should be brought in state court, not by going to a federal court in another state.”

The Walker administration seems to have cognitive dissonance.  On the one hand, Walker has jumped at the chance to poke Exxon in the eye, and on the other hand he’s asserting this is just an exercise that relates to “forum shopping.”

It is absurd for the attorney general to make the embarrassing argument that Alaska is suing Exxon as a state’s rights issue when there are any number of other ways the same goal can be achieved. Just the other day, Lindemuth and Walker refused to uphold Alaska’s rights in another important case involving Indian country. And earlier this summer, the governor went limp rather than fight for wildlife management in Alaska.

(Exxon fires back.)

This lawsuit against Exxon isn’t about state’s rights. This is about environmentalists in other states trying to shut down the economic foundation of our state.

Walker’s litigation against Exxon is about stopping the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from ever being developed. It’s about stopping offshore oil development in Alaska. It’s about shutting down Prudhoe Bay prematurely. These are the goals of the environmental lobby.

It won’t be long before we read another headline, when the activists behind the Exxon lawsuit issue this statement: “Even the governor of Alaska joined in our lawsuit to shut down oil and gas development in Alaska.”

Frank McQueary is a business leader and political activist. He is the former vice chairman of the Alaska Republican Party.