by Jon Sanders
Research Editor and Senior Fellow, Regulatory Studies, John Locke Foundation
The Wall Street Journal warns of a troubling new scheme. It gives privately funded environmental litigator/activists (who are unaccountable to the people) state police power:
In August 2017 the NYU outfit emailed then-New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office that demonstrated how the new attorneys would be used. These privately funded staffers would work out of an AG’s office for two years and deliver quarterly progress reports to the State Energy and Environmental Impact Center. …
In the New York case, a special interest is funding staffers who could wield state law-enforcement power to punish opponents.
The State Energy and Environmental Impact Center made clear that state AG offices would only qualify for special assistant AGs if they “demonstrate a need and commitment to defending environmental values and advancing progressive clean energy, climate change, and environmental legal positions,” according to the August 2017 email to numerous AGs. Mr. Schneiderman’s office suggested in its application for the fellows that it “needs additional attorney resources to assist” in extracting compensation from fossil-fuel emitters.
That’s exactly what’s happening. …
WSJ points out that so far “at least” seven other AG offices have signed on to this scheme, the others being Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, Washington, Illinois, New Mexico, and the District of Columbia.
The ethical problems here should be obvious. Private interests are leveraging the police powers of the state to pursue their political agenda, while a government official is letting private interests appear to influence enforcement decisions. None of this is reassuring about the fair administration of justice.
In order for a state attorney general to “qualify” for outside agitators using his office’s police powers to pursue their private agenda,* the AG must “demonstrate a need and commitment to defending environmental values and advancing progressive clean energy, climate change, and environmental legal positions.”
Just in the past two weeks, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein has joined with all those AGs identified by the WSJ above, plus a few others, in high-profile, national environmental fights:
Is that “demonstrating” fealty sufficient for this special-interest outfit? Would Gov. Roy Cooper’s “climate change” executive order also play a role in demonstrating fealty?
Anyone interested in constitutional, accountable, transparent government — anyone interested in good government — should hope Stein stays far away from this dangerous scheme and any similar ones.
* Even if you like the particular private agenda, think about the corruption and dangerous precedent-setting of such a practice!