The commission is, unfortunately, stonewalling the release of public information about its coordination with the White House on President Biden’s climate agenda.
WASHINGTON DC (07/19/2022) – The Institute for Energy Research (IER) filed a lawsuit today as it continues to probe the extent of the involvement of the Biden White House in reshaping the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
Beginning in March of this year, IER has issued numerous Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to FERC, many of which have now led to legal challenges over FERC’s serial, often clumsy failures to comply with the FOIA law (a pattern of behavior which departs from practice under the previous administration).
Recent developments in these matters support the idea that FERC has adopted a strategy of going into a bunker, stonewalling the release of public information about the extent of its coordination on the White House’s “climate” agenda. A new lawsuit being filed today highlights this.
IER President Thomas Pyle issued the following statement:
“Americans are struggling to keep up with soaring inflation, record high gasoline prices, and increasing utility bills. FERC’s attempts earlier this year essentially make it impossible to build any new natural gas pipelines would make things worse, especially for the poor, seniors, and people on fixed incomes.
We have given FERC every opportunity to provide records confirming that Commissioner Glick and Commissioner Clements are not coordinating with the White House on the Biden Administration’s ‘whole of government’ approach to imposing a climate agenda despite the lack of congressional instruction to do so.
So far, FERC has failed to give us anything probative. We have had to file numerous lawsuits just to have the commission share with the public documents that taxpayers paid to create. It’s sad, and it’s telling. People who have done no wrong usually don’t hide behind legal processes.
Chairman Glick has been renominated by President Biden to serve a second five-year term on the commission. Before the Senate grants him that privilege, they ought to know whether he was being truthful to the Committee. They also ought to know whether FERC is working for the Biden Administration or for the American people.”
IER’s FOIA requests initially were prompted by an exchange in a March 3rd Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee (ENR) hearing between FERC Chairman Richard Glick and Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA), about White House involvement in FERC’s earlier proposed pipeline policy statements (link to IER blog). Senator Cassidy asked:
“Has anyone higher up in the [Biden] administration ever spoken to you in regards to somehow slow-walking or otherwise impeding or otherwise accentuating policy that would have the effect of impeding the development of natural gas pipelines[?]’.”
Chairman Glick responded with an unambiguous no.
Particularly given FERC’s status as an independent agency and the economic and security implications of its proposed pipeline policy statements, IER used FOIA to pressure-test the veracity of Commissioner Glick’s response to Senator Cassidy by requesting correspondence between the Executive Office of the President (EOP) and certain Commissioners and staff at FERC.
IER has also sought calendars of Chairman Glick and Commissioner Allison Clements, a particularly zealous advocate of this agenda who came to FERC from an activist group, Energy Innovation, prior to which she spent a decade at the environmentalist pressure group NRDC.
The calendars showed bi-weekly coordination between Glick and White House climate advisor Ali Zaidi—with heavy redactions of apparently purely factual (likely non-exempt) information.
Comparing the calendars with the EOP correspondence (heavily redacted, too, including the also likely non-exempt “Subject” fields), suggests that information being withheld also relates to further coordination between this independent commission and the White House. Indeed, emails show that Clements’s calendar masked her outreach to Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy in the days following the Cassidy/Glick exchange. As with Glick, the basic question is: why hide this?
This—and the Commission’s/Glick’s sensitivity to charges of coordination while simultaneously withholding seemingly non-exempt information about senior officials’ activities—raises further concerns. This is particularly true with FERC having ‘paused’ its GHG ‘guidance’ in the face of outrage from that same Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee as it prepares to consider Mr. Glick’s renomination.
IER already has pending suits for FERC officials’ correspondence with certain outside groups, certain of its staff’s phone bills, and WhatsApp and text messages. IER is committed to ensuring no effort succeeds which is aimed at stalling the release of information important to understanding the White House’s role in the independent commission’s reinvention of itself, and the candor of its chairman. Today’s suit over calendar redactions represents the next step.
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