Competitive Enter. Inst. v. Dep't of State, No. 16-00080, 2016 WL 7033698 (E.D. Va. Dec. 1, 2016) (Trenga, J.)
Re: Request for certain communications concerning Paris Climate Agreement
Disposition: Granting in part and denying in part defendant's motion for summary judgment
- Exemption 5, Deliberative Process Privilege: "[T]he Court finds . . . that with the exception of portions of the redactions . . ., State has properly redacted the documents at issue pursuant to Exemption Five[.]" First, the court finds that, "[a]fter review of the redacted documents, . . . all of these communications were predecisional because they were part of the broader preparation that State and the U.S. Government were undertaking to prepare for the Paris negotiations." "State has not pointed to a particular decision that these documents related to, and, accordingly, there is an additional burden on State to justify nondisclosure." "State has met that burden, however, by demonstrating how the withheld information related to the formulation of actual agency policy." "The officials involved in these email exchanges were attempting to ascertain the effect on global temperatures of the commitments made by various countries, and some of these individuals involved in the email exchanges participated directly in the Paris Conference." "As such, the weight they attributed to different scientific studies and their personal opinions about the credibility of those studies was instrumental in determining the sorts of policies that the United States would propose during the Paris Conference and the specific actions it might seek that other countries take." Second, the court finds that "[m]any of State's redactions are deliberative." "The emails were exchanged between a group of government officials who were responsible for formulating U.S. climate policy, and various officials contributed their personal opinions on two apparently widely-read articles on that topic." "However, two redactions that State made are purely factual statements." "The Court therefore concludes that State improperly redacted these two portions."