WASHINGTON (CN) – A federal judge ordered the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy to meet and confer with a Libertarian think tank that seeks records on climate change data.
Though U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta denied The Competitive Enterprise Institute’s request for discovery in February, he modified his Memorandum Opinion on Monday, calling this “the rare case where discovery is warranted”.
The nonprofit submitted a Freedom of Information request in June 2014, after the Office of Science and Technology Policy refused its request to take down or edit a 2-minute video and blog article in which agency director John Holdren linked global warming to the “polar vortex” weather phenomenon.
The Competitive Enterprise Institute opposes government action to limit greenhouse gases. It has received funding from the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers and Volkswagen, among others, according to The Washington Post.
Because the video was based on expert opinion and not agency policy, the government rejected the group’s claim that the Information Quality Act required it to correct the climate change statements. At the center of the records search are drafts of the “OSTP Letter,” a 3-page legal explanation of how the agency came to its conclusion.
On Monday, Mehta ruled that inconsistencies in the history of the government’s search efforts make “self-evident the need for discovery in this case.”
The office initially sent 11 pages of emails with redactions. After the institute appealed the limited disclosure, the office acknowledged it had another 47 draft pages but refused to turn them over, citing an FOIA exemption for deliberative process.
Several more representations of how many pages it possessed and who saw the drafts proved inaccurate. The government asked the court to deny discovery because “FOIA requites a reasonable search, not a perfect one”.
But Mehta found that “defendant’s representations that it conducted a reasonable search designed to locate all relevant records has proven to be inaccurate time and again.”
He concluded that at some point, “the government’s inconsistent representations about the scope and completeness of its searches must give way to the truth-seeking function of the adversarial process, including the tools available through discovery. This case has crossed that threshold.”
The institute’s general counsel said in a statement: “As OSTP’s course of action here demonstrates, there’s a clear pattern when it comes to this administration: In dealing with global warming issues, agencies tend to act illegally. In short, global warming poses a risk to the rule of law.”
The Office of Science and Technology Policy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
- County on the Hook|for Deputy’s Abuses
- Court Clears 3 Arrested Ferguson Protesters