E&E Legal Files Motion Asking Court to Intervene in Ongoing State Department Stonewall of Records Relating to Paris Climate Treaty, Reveal the Scheme’s “Business Validators”, Correspondence with and About Department’s Partners in Advocacy

In productions under 2015 litigation, State continues to redact information that agencies regularly release, and information it has disclosed to reporters, others.  At critical moment for Paris decision, newly produced email redacts entirety of list of “validators” for Paris Climate Treaty, which list of advocacy partners other Obama agencies routinely revealed.

Washington, DC – Yesterday the Energy & Environment Legal Institute (E&E Legal) filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (with exhibits and exemplars) with the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia over the State Department’s continuing, abusive withholding of correspondence about its orchestration of the Paris climate treaty. These withholdings also include emails with outside parties. State has continued its withholding practices despite specific E&E Legal objections throughout the course of an ongoing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed in March 2015. Most abusively, just at the end of last week State withheld its list of green group and industry “validators” it identified to support the Obama administration’s position on the Paris agreement, presently the subject of public advocacy by businesses hoping to benefit at taxpayer expense, lobbying the Trump administration to break Trump’s promise to withdraw U.S. participation.

State has been producing emails in tranches for two years while withholding portions, often farcically, about Paris and Obama administration dealings with industry and green pressure group lobbies.  Late last week, State’s production included a bombshell in the negative, an email listing “validators” among “green groups”, “China hands/national security luminaries”, “business”, and others. “Validators” is a term used for lobby interests an agency collaborates with to advance a shared agenda. E&E Legal and the Competitive Enterprise Institute both have found numerous such Obama administration lists through FOIA productions — never redacted, since there is no basis in FOIA for withholding their identities (here, State implausibly claims that they are exempt both as “deliberative” and under the exemption protecting “personal privacy”). CEI first encountered such lists in the “Richard Windsor” false-identity email account of Obama’s former EPA chief Lisa Jackson, citing groups the Agency had coordinated as surrogates, advocating the Agency’s position without noting their surrogate status.

“In hiding the identities of its targeted partners in advocacy for the global warming agenda, State is clearly, yet again, invoking FOIA’s non-existent “political embarrassment” exemption”, said E&E Legal Senior Legal Fellow Chris Horner. “The time for the public to see this information could not be more perfect, just as the effort to hide this information from the public could not be more suspect. Surely, some of these ‘validators’ are among those who have come out in recent days attesting to the propriety of the Obama administration’s Paris scheme, working with Obama holdovers and sympathetic Trump appointees to keep the U.S. in the Paris climate treaty”.

Horner continues, “The public has a right to compare these names with those parties now purporting to make “the business case” for President Trump breaking his promise to withdraw from Paris.”

Last week’s production also provided for one email from an earlier tranche, produced in almost totally redacted form and which E&E Legal also seeks a court review and order to release. This was the subject of a November 9, 2015 story in the Washington Times, “The cost of climate change: Cold, hard cash sought for support of Obama’s deal”, reporting White House and State Department officials acknowledging that other countries expected the U.S. taxpayer to pay them to agree to this environmental priority of President Obama’s — under which the payee countries don’t even face the reductions President Obama purported to commit the United States to, if without the required Senate approval.

This new email is between Obama negotiator Todd Stern and the Center for American Progress, with CAP’s lobbyist noting the oddity of “foreign ministry folks coming through our door lately report…top brass wants a climate deal and they don’t particularly care about my details. This is a first in my experience.” Of course the former email removes any mystery: they want the money the U.S. taxpayer is to pay under the Paris treaty for the purpose of hobbling our own economy out of sympathy for what Europe is doing to itself.

Yet another email, a State Department cable, released at the end of last week further illuminates that economic harm occurring from this agenda in Europe, which the U.S. is to import for no projected climate impact. In a compilation of US embassy comments we see an understanding that the Paris “climate” agenda is putting European economies at a distinct competitive disadvantage, and risks doing more harm going forward. The cable suggests Europe is forging ahead with this scheme due to its reliance on Russian natural gas, leaving it vulnerable to its neighbor; the U.S. is to follow suit out of economic fairness to Europe. The cable does not address why it makes sense for the U.S. to do this too, rather than help Europe out of its self-created mess through increased liquified natural gas exports.

Further withholdings include discussions with and about green pressure groups lobbyists who, records produced in this suit show, were instrumental in coordinating post-Obama climate campaigning with China, and developing State’s argument on Paris’s “legal form”, to avoid the constitutionally required Senate approval.

These records take on critical importance and are of tremendous public interest given recent reports of efforts — led by State Department holdovers, and one recently departed senior aide — trying to derail President Trump’s promise to “cancel” the purported December 2015 U.S. agreement to the Paris treaty. Trump had unambiguously declared he would withdraw from Paris on the express basis that it was “bad for US business” and allows “foreign bureaucrats control over how much energy we use”. That has not changed. With release of these records, the public’s — and President Trump’s — understanding of how we got here and what is really at play would be greatly improved.

Horner added, “State continues to withhold records from the public that appear to be highly instructive about the Paris treaty’s development without any legitimate claim to privilege.  We look forward to confirming, by this suit and others, that the current Administration will not in fact continue the Obama administration’s brazen practice of keeping records secret, and will reverse these uses of the non-existent yet remarkably persistent ‘political embarrassment’ exemption to FOIA.”

“Regardless of what lies behind the widespread failure to reverse facially improper withholdings of public records, it reminds us all that the Trump administration should prioritize review of current disputes over withholdings, finally implementing Pres. Obamas much-hyped, thoroughly disregarded transparency memo to the heads of all agencies,” said E&E Legal’s President Craig Richardson. “Any general counsel taking over a private sector entity would immediately review records on its system that relate to current or likely litigation. The obligation is particularly obvious as applies records relating to key priorities and campaign promises. It is critical here, given signs that parties close to the Trump administration seek to continue the Obama climate treaty policy.”