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trash talk

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Lawyers told House Science Chair Lamar Smith his subpoenas are trash.

Smith will spend Wednesday morning leading a hearing that “may as well be sponsored by ExxonMobil,” according to 350’s executive director May Boeve.

Smith hopes to affirm his power to subpoena the Union of Concerned Scientists, environmental groups, and the New York and Massachusetts attorneys general, who have criticized Exxon for allegedly misleading the public on climate science. He claims investigations into Exxon are “a political agenda at the expense of scientists’ right to free speech.”

Legal scholars happen to disagree with Smith’s interpretation of the constitution.

“The Subpoenas, and the threat of future sanctions, themselves threaten the First Amendment—directly inhibiting the rights of their recipients to speak,” 14 lawyers and legal organizations wrote in a letter published Monday. “These Subpoenas violate the separation of powers, exceed the committee’s delegated authority, abridge the First Amendment, and undermine fundamental principles of Federalism.”

Ouch.

In July, Smith issued subpoenas to green organizations and the AGs of Massachusetts, and New York because of their investigations into Exxon. A total of 15 AGs are considering action against the oil company.

As for Wednesday’s hearing, it will probably look similar to all other House Science hearings that focus on so-called important issues.