A right-leaning group involved in the legal battle over 17 states’ and territories’ investigations into Exxon Mobil Corp. obtained a legal agreement between the state attorneys general. According to the Energy and Environment Legal Institute, the agreement broadly conceals communications between the states in order to subvert public records laws.

The institute obtained a “common interest agreement” between the states, led by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, that are investigating Exxon over whether it misled the public about how much it knew about climate change.

Conservative groups have suspected for some time that left-leaning environmental groups have been helping the states in the investigation, which isn’t illegal. But, they argue, the public should know that green groups are part of the effort.

The agreement, handed over by the state attorneys general to the E&E Institute, covers all legal actions on federal greenhouse gas emissions, investigations into companies’ disclosures on fossil fuels, investigations into delayed deployment of renewable energy resources, and federal and state laws on energy infrastructure. All communications between the parties are considered confidential under the agreement.

The E&E Legal Institute and others have pushed back against the state investigations and requested state officials’ communications with environmental advocacy groups that they believe may have pushed for the investigations.

E&E Legal General Counsel David Schnare said in a statement that the agreement’s confidentiality clause undermines state public record laws.

“It’s baffling that these AGs feel they can trample on their own states’ public records laws,” Schnare said. “If they truly believe that they are engaged in anything other than a purely political campaign, they should have no problem explaining to the public what they are doing and subjecting their activities to the scrutiny their legislatures demanded.”

The agreement is signed by California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Washington, Massachusetts, Illinois, Maryland, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Vermont.

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