Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (D) has been tacked with a lawsuit for his alleged efforts to bring aboard climate litigators funded by former New York City Mayor and billionaire Michael Bloomberg to prosecute in-state environmental offenses. The legal proceedings will be the first challenge of the legality of state attorneys general acquiring “special assistants” funded by the NYU School of Law’s State Energy and Environmental Impact Center to advance environmental and climate policies.
The program at the New York City College began in 2017 with $6 million in funding from Bloomberg aimed at ramping up climate change offense prosecution across the U.S. The Washington Times reports that all 10 of the states, including Virginia, invited to participate in the program’s first phase have Democratic attorneys general, although the center has billed itself as non-partisan. In a little over one year, the center has placed approximately 14 legal representatives throughout the predetermined 10 states, “despite concerns over the specter of privately funded climate litigators wielding state prosecutorial power,” the report states.
The sheer ethical problems with this para-governmental arrangement are astounding. Currently, private-funded interest and advocacy groups are using their vast fiscal coffers influence the police powers of the Commonwealth of Virginia and nine other states across the country. Herring is seemingly, allegedly, letting progressive interests influence decisions of the official enforcement procedures emanating from the Office of the Attorney General. Meanwhile, it is billed as an “environmental initiative” to hold up muster with the public.
While these special assistants are overseen only by the state attorney general, they are required to submit just a quarterly report explaining how the have contributed to “clean energy, climate change, and environmental initiatives.”
Sounds like a good dose of malarkey, even chicanery, right?
The lawsuit, filed in the Richmond Circuit Court by senior fellow Chris Horner of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), argues that Herring “refused” to provide documents to support its application for a special assistant to work for the government of the Commonwealth of Virginia as a “clean energy special assistant attorney general.”
“Given the apparent prohibitions in the Virginia Code against this arrangement, not to mention due process concerns, it is inconceivable the commonwealth’s top legal office claimed authority to do this without considering whether it’s legal,” Horner said.
The CEI representative is seeking confirmation of the records related to the 2017 request, and, if no records are found, “how the OAG could claim to have ‘no records’ responsive to these requests.” Nevertheless, the Office of the Virginia Attorney General told Horner that it had no such records in response to his earlier open-records request.
The senior fellow stated that he obtained an application from Herring’s office asserting that bringing on privately-funded attorneys to work on specific issue areas was legal, noting that the office has historically employed law-school fellows. However, as Horner, who charges that Virginia law prohibits such an arrangement, explains, “This donor-funded scheme of law enforcement for hire, using public office to expend resources not appropriated or approved by the AGs’ legislatures, raises conflict, statutory and significant constitutional issues as well as ethics concerns.”
“These serious concerns should be the subject of prompt and serious legislative oversight,” he said, adding the situation is an “unprecedented, highly conflicted arrangement.”
Regardless, Herring as reiterated that, “the work the State Impact Center is doing to protect our environment and promote clean energy is so important, and I’m glad Virginia is participating in its fellowship program.”
Interestingly, on the NYU School of Law’s State Energy and Environmental Impact Center website, it list actions conducted by attorneys general in the effort of forwarding their mission of working to influence matters on “climate change and environmental matters of regional and national importance.” Herring is listed for his work in “outlining how offshore drilling could harm Virginia.”
“Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring ‘submitted official public comments to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management expressing his opposition to the Trump Administration’s plan to expand drilling off the coast of Virginia and other states on the Atlantic seaboard. Citing the risks to coastal communities, economies, environments, and military assets, Attorney General Herring says ‘the potential risks are too great and the potential benefits too small to continue with the development of this Program.'”
Virginia’s attorney general is also listed by them for his work in 22 separate instances including fighting the Trump’s Administration’s EPA for their proposal to roll back vehicle emissions standards from the Obama-era, the rescinding of other drilling plans, promoting the Clean Power Plan, and pledging to remain committed to the Paris climate accords.
It seems then that Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring may not be only the Commonwealth’s top legal representative, but is also becoming its environmental czar.