Judge Forces Obama Administration to Disclose Climate Documents

Published June 6, 2016

Judge Amit Mehta handed the Obama administration a defeat in court in a case involving the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), ruling the White House showed bad faith in withholding information and data underpinning John Holdren’s claim global warming was making winters colder. Holdren is the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) director.

In response to a FOIA request by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), OSTP initially claimed it found just 11 pages of documents, none of which included drafts of the director’s final conclusions.

After CEI sued to force OSTP to publicly disclose the records as required by FOIA, the office acknowledged it found 47 pages of drafts but said it was withholding them because they were protected from release having only been seen within the administration. Changing its story twice more OSTP said there were 52 total pages of drafts, yet later admitted to finding 112 pages of drafts, again arguing OSTP need not disclose the drafts as all the information had either been previously disclosed or was already available to the public. 

“[T]hose impressions also turned out to be mistaken,” Judge Mehta wrote, noting even if true, it means the government has found 112 pages of drafts after initially telling the court it had none at all. Mehta added in a footnote of his ruling ordering full disclosure, he was troubled by the government’s statements that misled the court. 

‘Agencies Act Illegally’

In his ruling, Mehta wrote, “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.” 

Newsmax reports, CEI’s General Counsel Sam Kazman said after the ruling “as the government’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.” 

Mehta’s ruling grants CEI legal discovery in the case. 

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D., ([email protected]) is the managing editor of Environment & Climate News.