Lawsuit Challenges Biden’s National Climate Task Force’s Defiance of Freedom of Information Act

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A new lawsuit by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) seeks to subject President Biden’s National Climate Task Force to the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).  In a complaint filed today in federal district court in Washington DC, CEI charged that the Task Force had illegally ignored its request for documents related to its first meeting.  This is despite the fact that the President has promised a “recommitment to the highest standards of transparency.”

Under FOIA, agencies have to respond to document requests within 20 working days.  CEI filed its request on February 17, but since then it has received no response whatsoever from the Task Force.  

The complaint charges that the Task Force is “at the center of a fundamental redirection of the entire federal government.” It points out that the Task Force is charged with facilitating “planning and implementation of key Federal actions” on climate, and was behind the targets for drastically reduced national greenhouse gas emissions announced by the President on Earth Day. CEI general counsel Sam Kazman stated, “The task force is directing climate change policy for this country, but its workings have remained totally private.  The President may have declared climate change to be an existential threat, but that doesn’t make the Task Force an extralegal entity.”

Dechert LLP partner Michael H. McGinley is serving as lead counsel for CEI.  Mr. McGinley previously served as a law clerk to Justice Alito and to then-Judge Gorsuch, and as an Associate White House Counsel.

The Task Force was launched by President Biden on January 27 in Executive Order 14008.  It is chaired by Gina McCarthy, the President’s National Climate Advisor, and includes cabinet-level members from 21 agencies as well as White House officials.