A libertarian think tank filed suit against the State Department for records regarding potential collusion between Obama administration officials and environmental groups in developing the Paris climate accord.
The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) initially filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for former officials’ emails in late August. The State Department failed to respond to CEI’s request, so the group filed suit on Tuesday.
“In the absence of the Trump administration taking the initiative to review the internal record of the disgraceful process of circumventing the Senate and the U.S. Constitution to enter the Paris climate treaty, we will continue seeking to make public all of that record we are able,” said CEI Senior Fellow Chris Horner said in a statement.
CEI claims to have evidence former Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern and former State Department legal adviser Sue Biniaz worked closely with two environmental groups in developing the Paris climate accord.
CEI requested communications between Stern and Biniaz and members of the Natural Resources Defense Council and the World Wildlife Fund. The group also targeted emails former State Department Director of Policy Planning Jake Sullivan — who served as a senior adviser to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.
CEI also asked for Stern’s role in determining how the U.S. would interpret the Paris accord.
The Obama administration joined the Paris accord in 2016, pledging to cut emissions 26 to 28 percent by 2025. The accord was first proposed the previous year at a United Nations climate summit in Paris.
Nearly 200 countries signed onto the Paris accord, which allows nations to set their own emissions reductions targets. Accord negotiators said this was intentional to make the agreement “non-binding,” meaning it would not need U.S. Senate approval.
The Obama administration unilaterally joined the Paris accord based on the argument it was a non-binding executive agreement, not a treaty. President Donald Trump intends to withdraw the U.S. from the agreement by 2019.
There was some confusion in recent weeks over the Trump administration’s position on the Paris accord. Some news reports suggested Trump would not withdraw from the accord as promised.
The White House was quick to fire back at those reports but attempts to clarify their position only seemed to add to the confusion.
“We are withdrawing, and we made that as clear as it can be. I don’t know how to say it any more clearly,” Gary Cohn told energy ministers at a recent meeting in New York City, sources told Politico.
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