The Competitive Enterprise Institute filed a federal lawsuit Thursday to force President Biden’s newly created National Climate Task Force to comply with federal open-records laws, accusing the administration of illegally ignoring requests for information.
The free-market think tank filed a request Feb. 17 for documents from the task force’s first meeting on Feb. 11, but has received “no response whatsoever,” even though the Freedom of Information Act requires federal agencies to respond within 20 days.
“The task force is directing climate change policy for this country, but its workings have remained totally private,” said CEI general counsel Sam Kazman in a statement. “The President may have declared climate change to be an existential threat, but that doesn’t make the Task Force an extralegal entity.”
The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia seeks to subject the task force to FOIA requests, describing the entity as “the nerve center of a fundamental redirection of the entire federal government’s regulatory policymaking.”
Created Jan. 27 by executive order, the task force is led by Gina McCarthy in her role as the president’s National Climate Adviser, a newly created position, and includes White House officials as well as cabinet-level members from at least 21 agencies.
“Put simply, the National Climate Task Force is the nerve center of a fundamental redirection of the entire federal government’s regulatory policymaking,” said the lawsuit.
The task force has already been active, credited by the White House with developing the 2030 emissions target of reducing U.S. greenhouse gases by 50% from 2005 levels, but the “readout” released after the first meeting “lacked key details—such as any documents shared at the meeting,” said the institute.
“And as the meeting was held in private, the public is thus unaware of what was actually discussed,” said the statement.
The White House issued “readouts” after the first three task force meetings explaining what was discussed, who presented briefings and what decisions were made, such as Ms. McCarthy’s request to form an interagency working group on “drought impacted communities,” according to the April 21 readout.
So far, however, the task force has failed to provide CEI with requested materials including transcripts, shared documents and communications records.
“Defendants McCarthy and the Task Force are thereby improperly denying Plaintiff access to agency records in violation of FOIA,” said the complaint.
The Washington Times has reached out to the White House for comment.
In his executive order, Mr. Biden said that the task force would assemble “leaders from across 21 federal agencies and departments to enable a whole-of-government approach to combatting the climate crisis.”