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CEI Sues U.S. Department of Energy for Failing to Comply with Freedom of Information Request

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The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) today sued the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia for failing to comply with a request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). CEI is asking the court to declare CEI is entitled to the records requested, compel DOE to produce the requested records, and pay for attorney fees.

On May 1, 2017, CEI submitted a FOIA request for documents and information pertaining to a lobbying campaign to make permanent a limited and expiring tax credit, known as 45Q, for capturing carbon dioxide from power plants and other similar sources. A recent Reuters report notes that the biggest beneficiaries of CO2 tax credit schemes, of which 45Q is only one of several, are Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Capital One, Fidelity and other such interests.

“After revealing specifics of the records it was processing and when it would comply, the Department of Energy suddenly slammed on the brakes, and has refused to release any of the records it had identified as responsive,” said CEI Senior Fellow Chris Horner. “The program is a consequential one, the campaign to expand it is disturbing, and DoE’s behavior is remarkable. Each of these, alone demand that DoE immediately release this information that belongs to the public.”

The proposed 45Q expansion is a major objective of parties seeking to “renegotiate” the Paris climate agreement agreed by the Obama administration in 2015. As CEI’s Chris Horner and Marlo Lewis, Jr., wrote in their May 2017 paper, “The Legal and Economic Case Against the Paris Climate Treaty”:

“Renegotiating the Paris Agreement… supposedly would be accomplished by scaling back Obama’s first [emission reduction promise] and obtaining an international commitment to develop and commercialize carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology. This not only ignores that the Paris Agreement is supposedly the instrument that would force the development of a CCS breakthrough, but that no amount of “forcing” of CCS will bring it about. The U.S. government has been trying to develop such technologies for decades, and there is still not a single utility-scale carbon capture and storage power plant in operation anywhere that does not depend on taxpayer and ratepayer subsidies. Pouring more taxpayer dollars into uneconomic energy is no way to drain the swamp.”

CEI’s complaint notes that after modifying its request in conversations with DOE, the Department followed its specific promise of production of a specific number of records by February of 2018 with a continuous stream of missed and delayed deadlines, then only excuses rather than the productions required under FOIA.

“It’s striking how the Department of Energy suddenly shut down its plan to release these records as the promised date of production neared,” said Horner. “The American people deserve to see who has been pushing DOE to obligate billions of taxpayer dollars by making this credit permanent.”

You can read CEI’s full complaint here.