Energy

LAWSUIT: Obama Officials, Activists, China Worked To Keep The ‘Climate Gravy Train Chugging’

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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Michael Bastasch Contributor
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A government watchdog is suing the Department of State for records it believes point to collusion between Obama administration officials, environmentalists and the Chinese to keep the “climate gravy train chugging” after the administration ended.

The Energy and Environment Legal Institute (E&E Legal) sued the Trump administration Monday for ignoring a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for emails between State Department officials and Jennifer Morgan, the former head of global climate policy at the World Resources Institute (WRI).

The group hopes the Trump administration will produce the records they want, unredacted — a common tactic employed by the Obama administration, they argued.

“We look forward to confirming, by this suit and others, that the current Administration will not in fact continue the Obama administration’s brazen practice of keeping records secret, and will reverse these uses of the non-existent yet remarkably persistent ‘political embarrassment’ exemption to FOIA,” Chris Horner, an E&E Legal senior legal fellow, said in a statement.

E&E Legal’s lawsuit comes amid reports Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner took language out of an executive order that was critical to the Paris agreement.

President Donald Trump promised to “cancel” the Paris agreement on the campaign trail. The Paris agreement is a global deal to cut greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming.

Trump also pledged to cut funding for United Nations global warming programs and using that money to update U.S. environmental infrastructure. Obama pledged $3 billion to the Green Climate Fund on top of funding other global warming programs across the world.

One of the Trump transition team’s requests to the State Department was a breakdown of funding provided to environmental groups for global warming programs. If Trump cuts international global warming programs, governments and activist groups could lose funding.

E&E Legal obtained emails between former State Department officials with the subject line “Jennifer Morgan” that was redacted as b5 “deliberative process.” The group hopes the Trump administration won’t redact communications between outside activists and government officials.

E&E Legal also obtained emails from Morgan to State Department officials talking about how the Chinese government’s National Center for Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation (NCSC) asked WRI to coordinate activists based on “the recognition that [the Obama administration] is coming to an end soonish and their desire to open up channels in DC that are additional to the ones that are working well now.”

State officials were thrilled with Morgan’s request for assistance in organizing think tanks and activists. Officials said they would immediately arrange a call for “China teams to talk.”

E&E Legal wants unredacted records to see how far State officials went to help WRI coordinate its efforts with the Chinese, but the Trump administration did not respond to the group’s recent FOIA request in time.

In late January, the group asked for all electronic correspondence between six State Department officials and Morgan and which use “China” or several other specific words. Now, E&E Legal is suing the Trump administration.

E&E Legal argued these emails “on their face appear highly relevant to the ongoing public debate about the federal government’s role in what has become a ‘global warming’ industry, and coordination with that movement’s leading activists as well as with other countries which seek the U.S. to adopt the agenda’s harmful policies.”

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