Attacks on the energy industry hurt Central Minnesotans

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It was disappointing to read former U.S. Sen. David Durenberger’s July commentary on these pages defending the multi-state lawsuits being pursued by several states’ attorney generals including Minnesota’s Attorney General Keith Ellison. Durenberger (R-Minn.) says in that column that “taxpayers are unfairly shouldering costs of climate change” and that these lawsuits against the energy industry are intended to “recoup some of these climate-induced costs.” 

Yet the facts tell us nothing could be further from the truth.

For over two years, the Freedom Foundation of Minnesota has been following the actions of Attorney General Keith Ellison and 10 of his liberal attorney general allies in various states as they file lawsuits against American energy producers and refiners to, in one of their allies’ own words, “bring the death knell” to the American energy industry.  

They might be successful in doing so but it will be Stearns, Sherburne and Benton county taxpayers who will pay for their climate war.  And, Ellison has been happy to leverage his taxpayer-funded office to bolster these special interest lawsuits – lawsuits that, if successful, will further exacerbate the loss of jobs in this area and increase the cost of living for local taxpayers.

How is this happening?

According to IRS filings, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s private foundation (Bloomberg Family Foundation) donated $5.6 million in 2017 to develop New York University School of Law’s State Energy and Environmental Impact Center. Since that time, NYU has hired at least 17 attorneys and placed them in 11 states’ attorney general offices.

NYU’s website lists their two-year job description as “advancing progressive clean energy, climate change and environmental legal positions.” 

Imagine, if you will, that after the 2022 election, a conservative Republican is sworn in as Minnesota’s next attorney general. That attorney general might then receive a solicitation from the National Right to Life Foundation or the National Rifle Association’s foundation offering to fund free legal staff as needed for any pet projects of the newly elected attorney general. The cries of outrage from the Legislature, the news media and government watchdog organizations would be deafening, as well it should be. But in this current case, there is very little attention paid to what’s going on in Ellison’s office in St. Paul.

Soon after he assumed office, Ellison appealed to Bloomberg’s priorities and applied for not one but two of these full-time Bloomberg staffers. They are paid by NYU, not the state of Minnesota, and our further investigation shows that they haven’t complied with Minnesota’s ethical practices requirements of filing statements of economic interest.

Bloomberg must be well-pleased with his Minnesota investment. Last year, those two lawyers in Ellison’s office filed a lawsuit against several oil companies and refiners hoping to replicate Minnesota’s first-in-the-nation tobacco litigation that made a Minnesota law firm’s partners into mega-millionaires. The only major difference this time is that the law firm retained by Ellison’s team is from San Francisco and if successful, will make a bunch of California trial lawyers mega-millionaires.

Ellison and his liberal fellow travelers believe this is a “win-win” for their states in fighting climate change. But the real story is that this lawsuit is about punishing political opponents and will only enrich trial layers while attempting to put energy companies out of business and passing along higher energy costs to Minnesota consumers.

This lawsuit is part of a broad strategy to “create scandal” for energy companies that radical environmental activists hashed out in a meeting in New York City in 2016. That strategy all hinged on the goal of recruiting “a single sympathetic state attorney general.” 

They seem to have found one in St. Paul.

But why are all of these progressive activists teaming up like this?  The answer certainly isn’t to address climate change.

All of these environmental radicals have teamed up to engage in a wide-ranging, coordinated campaign to destroy our energy choices in America. They have recruited “friendly” attorney generals to do their bidding in this climate war which will claim rural Minnesotans as their first victims.

— Annette Meeks is the founder and CEO of the Freedom Foundation of Minnesota. She is a former deputy chief of staff to former Rep. Newt Gingrich, R-Ga.

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