The investigations by state attorneys general into Exxon Mobil over climate change are nothing short of "un-American" and set a chilling precedent that places all industry sectors on the chopping "block," said the Chamber of Commerce's lead energy official.
"The idea that a group of attorneys general can get together and decide to collaborate and corroborate, to persecute not just a single company now but an industry, because they are ideologically opposed to the product it produces, is un-American," said Karen Harbert, who heads the Chamber's Institute for 21st Century Energy, on Wednesday at a fossil energy forum in Montana.Harbert was referring to Tuesday's announcement by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman that he will investigate Exxon's climate change record, which includes allegations the company covered up its own studies on the detrimental effects of climate change from the burning of fossil fuels.
Schneiderman started the probe at a press conference with former Vice President Al Gore and a gaggle of more than a dozen other states who pledged to work together on climate change efforts. Massachusetts this week also announced it would conduct its own investigation into Exxon Mobil.
"There are companies using the best climate models, they know how much the sea levels are rising," Schneiderman said. "They know all these things. Yet they have told the public that there are no effective climate models to determine the sea levels."
Harbert told the Montana energy forum that the probes set a distressing precedent for all industries.
"If it's Exxon Mobil today, it will be the energy industry as a whole tomorrow," Harbert said. "It could be the utilities, it could be the pharmaceuticals, you name it."
"Everybody will be on the block," she said. "That somebody decides they don't like what you do, they're going to use the power of government and law enforcement to come after you, will provide a very chilling effect on investment in this country.
"It is a threat to the rule of law on which the free-enterprise system depends," she added. "And we're not going to stand for it."