CEI Seeks Court Order on National Climate Task Force Records
The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) sought a court order to preserve relevant documents and other materials from the White House’s National Climate Task Force (NCTF) and its former director, Gina McCarthy.
In May 2021, CEI sued the Biden Administration under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for records related to the work of the National Climate Task Force (NCTF). The NCTF is an office under the Executive Office of the President at the White House that sets nationwide policy on climate issues, including a plan to cut at least half of all greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. But despite making such sweeping policies, the NCTF has failed to respond by the legally-mandated deadline of March 17, 2021.
CEI’s lawsuit seeks any transcripts from the NCTF meeting on February 11, 2021, any documents shared at that meeting, any records of communications concerning the meeting, and any communications by the Task Force with people who are not employees of officers of the federal government.
“Since taking office almost two years ago, the Biden Administration has ignored its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act while setting policy for federal regulations in secret,” said CEI attorney Devin Watkins. “Today, we are asking the court to order that the National Climate Task Force records be preserved, including those of NCTF chair Gina McCarthy who recently resigned her position. The Biden Administration promised to be transparent. The American people want to know: What is the President’s National Climate Task Force hiding?”
A week after President Biden took office, he ordered a government-wide approach to what he deemed the climate crisis and required “the full capacity of [the federal government’s] agencies” to combat it by altering federal policy. CEI filed a FOIA request on February 17, 2021 and under FOIA, the Biden NCTF was obligated to respond by March 17, 2021. After CEI filed a lawsuit on May 6, 2021 seeking to compel the Biden NCTF to comply with FOIA and turn over the requested documents, the NCTF filed a motion to dismiss in response on October 28, 2021 claiming it is not an agency under FOIA.
On November 11, 2021, CEI opposed the government’s motion to dismiss.
While the NCTF admits they are established under the Executive Office of the President, it claims its personnel are only advising President Biden. But the NCTF is directing its member agencies to implement the policies they devise. The Executive Order creating the NCTF expressly orders it to do such implementation. Under FOIA, the factual basis for these policies and their implementation must be available to the public. Any deals the Biden NCTF made with entities outside the federal government must also be available.
“The basis for the policies the National Climate Task Force is implementing will eventually be available to everyone; that day cannot come soon enough. Until then, the evidence requested must be preserved,” said Watkins.