CEI Sues U.S. Treasury to Obtain Carbon Tax E-mails

By Penny Starr | November 13, 2012 | 5:03 PM EST

Gilbert Metcalf, deputy assistant secretary for environment and energy at the Treasury Department (Courtesy of Tufts University)

(CNSNews.com) – A conservative public policy think tank filed suit on Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., seeking some 7,300 emails from the Treasury Department that it failed to obtain through the Freedom of Information Act.

In its FOIA, the Competitive Enterprise Institute requested emails that included the word “carbon” from the agency that would be charged with setting up cap-and-trade or a carbon tax.

“The emails, between Treasury officials, lawmakers, left-wing pressure groups, contributors and other special interest groups, reflect efforts by the Treasury to build a coordinated support for a carbon tax,” a press release issued by CEI on Tuesday stated.

“The administration has refused to release the emails of discussions claiming that it would be expensive to photocopy all 7,000 emails and because the emails ‘would not significantly inform the public about operations or activities of government,’” CEI said.

“At first, Treasury illegally delayed responding to CEI for several months,” Christopher Horner, attorney and CEI senior fellow, said in the press release. “Now, it refused to issue a waiver of fees even though courts have been clear these fees were designed for non-profit watchdog groups. It claims this would place an outrageous cost burden on the agency.

“It would cost the agency the cost of one CD disc and the time it would take to download the emails to the disc,” Horner said.

The CEI also states in its press release that “press reports and leaked documents have linked the American Enterprise Institute, a right-leaning think tank in Washington, to an effort to rebrand this tax as reliable and abundant energy as a conservative idea, specifically for the lame duck session.”

Also on Tuesday, AEI co-hosted an event featuring several panels discussing carbon taxes.

“In an effort to shed more light on this topic and its budgetary impact, AEI, the Climate and Energy Economics Project at the Brookings Institution, the International Monetary Fund, and Resources for the Future are co-hosting a conference to discuss ideas for US carbon tax design and options for the potential use of carbon tax revenues,” the AEI website stated in describing the event.

Marlo Lewis, senior fellow at CEI who works on energy policy, told CNSNews.com that the event and its keynote speaker were noteworthy.

“If Treasury’s deliberations about carbon taxes – possibly including exchanges with outside interest groups, estimates of tax revenues, and discussions of the political deal making required to get bipartisan support– are not of significant interest to the public, then why did AEI hold an all-day conference on carbon taxes, and why was Treasury official Gilbert Metcalf the keynote speaker?” Lewis said.

Metcalf is deputy assistant secretary for environment and energy at the Treasury Department.