California AG Xavier Becerra accused the EPA Wednesday of lacking transparency, despite having stonewalled several public requests related to probes against conservative climate skeptics.
Becerra cited a lawsuit he filed public records request as evidence that the EPA works to block public information. The Democratic AG’s criticism, which came during a National Press Club event, comes despite his refusals to fork over documents related to a now-defunct probe against conservatives.
“The issue of the administrator of the EPA refusing to provide documents under the Freedom of Information Act, as he is required by law, is, I believe, an absolute abuse of power and discretion,” said Becerra, who became the state’s AG after Sen. Kamala Harris was elected to office.
Becerra requested numerous documents from the EPA in April to flesh out agency chief Scott Pruitt’s supposed conflicts of interest with the oil and coal industry. He called the agency’s glacial movement on Freedom of Information Requests (FOIA) as an example of EPA’s rogue nature.
“The fact that I have to sue … the Environmental Protection Agency and its administrator, Mr. [Scott] Pruitt, simply to get access to documents which are public record, is an outrage,” Becerra added. “It’s unconscionable. It’s almost as if they believe they’re above the law.”
Attorneys at the Energy & Environment Legal Institute (E&E Legal) filed a lawsuit against Becerra in November for withholding emails allegedly showing the AG collaborated with environmentalists to target opponents of an AG-led Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) investigation against conservatives and free-market groups.
California’s attorney general office participated in the since-collapsed “Climate-RICO” case but has since kept its involvement in the probe off-screen. Becerra has since tacitly acknowledged working with activists on the probe – Harris has also been cagey about her involvement in similar pursuits.
Becerra is also refusing to say if California is seriously considering leaping headlong into a nearly two-year-long probe against ExxonMobil’s climate record. The investigation initially sought to determine if the oil company hid knowledge about climate change from the public.
“Understand that the last thing we want is to let people know what we’re doing,” Becerra told an audience at a town hall meeting in July. It was the first time Becerra has commented about the investigation.
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