ALEXANDRIA, Va. (CN) - The U.S. State Department should reveal its ties to an influential climate-change organization, pro-business environmental groups say in a federal complaint.
The Competitive Enterprise Institute made the demand last month in a complaint joined by the Energy & Environmental Legal Institute and the Free Market Environmental Law Clinic.
They say they are waiting on records requested under the Freedom of Information Act that will shed light on how the State Department carries out its work, "including with outside groups demanding aggressive action against climate change."
Chaim Mandelbaum, house counsel for plaintiff Free Market, said the groups are particularly concerned about the agency's relationship with Climate Interactive.
Noting that the State Department once praised Climate Interactive for "serving as the 'backbone'" of its climate-related analysis, Mandelbaum said "the nature of this relationship is unclear," Mandelbaum said in an email.
A copy of the original FOIA request, provided by Mandelbaum for this article, speculates that the work in question "relates to the spectacularly inflated emission assumptions behind the new, highly dubious claim that the upcoming Paris agreement will actually have a detectable impact on temperatures."
"State's understanding of this inflated business-as-usual projection is of great public importance," the request says.
"The information sought will provide important insights into the role of outside groups influencing State's claims, positions and negotiations on behalf of the American public, specifically the influence of a for-hire policy whose website acknowledges close ties to the State Department," the request continues.
Nearly two months passed since the groups made their request, though the law requires an agency to determine within 20 days whether it will comply.
"My clients submitted a request, which the State Department failed to substantially respond to within the time the law requires," Mandelbaum said in an email. "That necessitated the filing of this lawsuit. It is an issue of the State Department failing to meet its legal obligation with regard to openness and transparency under the FOIA law."
The State Department refuses to comment on pending litigation.
Mandelbaum's clients describe themselves as promoting responsible environmental regulation and "economically sustainable environmental policy," along with "the ethos of limited governmental regulation" and "free market-based solutions to environmental problems."
About one week after the suit's filing, a federal judge in Washington dismissed a different FOIA action Competitive Enterprise Institute had filed against the Environmental Protection Agency.
Competitive Enterprise had brought that action after the EPA responded to its records request by offering to release 100 records per month.
Though that release schedule would have taken 100 years, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled on Jan. 28 that the challenge had been moot because the parties agreed to a narrowed request and schedule of release for "emails sent to or from a false-identity email account created for certain official correspondence for then-EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson in the name of 'Richard Windsor."
Jackson found no evidence to substantiate the organizations claims that the EPA discriminates against the institute's FOIA requests.
The "plaintiff points to nothing in the record that would indicate that the challenged delay in producing the tens of thousands of responsive records in this case revealed a broader policy or practice of delaying disclosure," Jackson wrote.
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