June 14, 2024

Oklahoma Takes Center Stage in Anti-ESG Fight

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt passionately defended the state’s anti-ESG law after a decide briefly blocked it from being enforced.

“We’re not going to let companies come into Oklahoma and attack our oil and gas industry,” Stitt stated concerning the 2022 regulation. “That’s what the treasurer is trying to do, and we certainly support the treasurer in that effort.”

During a information convention Friday, Stitt aligned himself with Treasurer Todd Russ after the state legal professional common intervened to dam Russ’ participation in the authorized proceedings. Russ oversees the checklist of economic establishments endorsing environmental, social, and governance (ESG) insurance policies, which regularly alienate oil and fuel pursuits.

In response to the decide’s Tuesday ruling, Russ expressed his disagreement and pledged to attraction.

“I am solely looking out for the financial interests of the citizens of Oklahoma and its industries,” Russ stated. “This ruling is not going to stop the fight for Oklahomans against activists using ESG in state.”

However, earlier than Russ might problem the ruling, Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond abruptly dismissed the lead legal professional and sidelined Russ, resulting in accusations of a “cozy relationship” between Drummond and one of many monetary establishments listed by Russ.

A notable lineup of economic establishments, together with BlackRock, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, State Street, and Climate First Bank, discovered themselves on Russ’ checklist as a consequence of their ESG insurance policies.

Enacted beneath the Energy Discrimination Elimination Act of 2022, the regulation prohibits these monetary establishments from partaking in enterprise in Oklahoma. Russ is tasked with managing the list.

The regulation prompted a authorized problem from Don Keenan, former president of the Oklahoma Public Employees Association, ensuing in the short-term injunction issued Tuesday by Oklahoma County District Judge Sheila Stinson.

Initial makes an attempt by Russ to contain the legal professional common’s workplace have been rebuffed, main Russ to proceed independently. Drummond’s intervention Thursday, together with the elimination of the lead legal professional and exclusion of Russ from the case, stirred controversy.

“When asking the attorney general to take my case, he refused. So, I was left with no other choice but to choose who I was most comfortable representing me,” Russ defined in a statement. “My constitutional office as the state treasurer makes me party to the lawsuit, and therefore I don’t believe my decision-making authority can be removed.”

Drummond countered along with his personal statement: “No longer will I allow professional courtesy to influence my decisions on this matter. Effective immediately, I have terminated Treasurer Russ’ hand-picked counsel and removed the treasurer from any decision-making role in the lawsuit. My office will handle all elements of the case moving forward.”

Asked about Drummond’s actions, Stitt stated, “That was kind of unusual.”

“We support [Russ’] outside counsel,” Stitt added. “I know the treasurer found the very best.”

Drummond’s determination sparked hypothesis about his motives, amplified by the American Accountability Foundation’s disclosure of an e-mail trade between Drummond and BlackRock representatives from May 12, 2023.

Drummond wrote, “I would like to continue our productive corporate-state partnership.”

As the authorized battle unfolds, Drummond stated he’s now targeted on successful the case.

“It is extremely disappointing that the counsel hired by Treasurer Russ was unable to secure a favorable ruling in defense of Oklahoma’s anti-ESG law,” Drummond stated. “Because of this failure, the law is now on hold and at risk of being struck down entirely. Oklahomans deserve better.”

Drummond is a possible candidate for a gubernatorial run in 2026 with Stitt restricted to 2 phrases.

Russ, in the meantime, stays resolute in his dedication to uphold the regulation and optimistic concerning the prospects of a profitable attraction.

“I am disappointed with the outcome but have several facts for appeal,” he stated. “I had hoped to have the attorney general as my defender all along.”