Competitive Enterprise Institute Sues State Department Again Over Paris Climate Agreement Records

Today the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) filed its second lawsuit against the State Department to obtain illegally withheld documents related to the 2015 Paris climate agreement. In October 2017, CEI submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for emails of two State Department officers involved in the Obama administration’s maneuvering to circumvent the Senate in order to join the Paris agreement, Trigg Talley and Alexandra Costello.

Trigg Talley and Alexandra Costello were both members of the State Department when the decision was made to avoid characterizing the Paris agreement as a treaty. Talley is presently in Bonn at the Paris treaty talks as Director of the Office of Global Change at State Department. Costello was a State Department Capitol Hill liaison during the Obama administration tasked with managing relations between the Senate and the administration.

The Obama administration cut the Senate out of the treaty process in order to join the Paris agreement. Documents obtained under a previous FOIA production show Costello correspondence with a lawyer for Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker.  In response to an August 2014 New York Times report about Obama’s plan to circumvent the Senate, the lawyer said this news “indicate[s] a disturbing contempt for the Senate’s constitutional rights and responsibilities.” Yet, Chairman Corker never publicly opposed Obama’s circumvention of the Senate. CEI seeks to learn just why this silence occurred.

The FOIA request seeks certain text message and email correspondence to and from Talley and Costello. To date, the State Department has provided no production of records, prompting CEI to sue.

“As the Senate and now two administrations continue to remain silent about how our treaty process was ignored in order to claim the U.S. was a party to the Paris climate treaty, CEI continues to seek relevant information to learn how this came about,” said CEI Fellow Chris Horner. “The Trump administration should carefully examine what led to our signing of the agreement without seeking Senate advice and consent, and what steps should be taken next given what their own records show. Critically, the new administration should allow the public to see this information, no longer abetting the Obama administration’s many FOIA stonewalls.”

See more about the case here.