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Energy & Envtl. Legal Inst. v. Dep't of State, No. 15-423, 2017 WL 3763853 (E.D. Va. Aug. 28, 2017) (O'Grady, J.)


Energy & Envtl. Legal Inst. v. Dep't of State, No. 15-423, 2017 WL 3763853 (E.D. Va. Aug. 28, 2017) (O'Grady, J.)

Re:  Request for certain emails or text messages

Disposition:  Granting defendant's cross-motion for summary judgment; denying plaintiff's motion for summary judgment

  • Exemption 1:  The court holds that "Defendants have met their burden of proving that the withheld information was properly redacted."  The court finds that "Defendant has . . . provided sufficient information about the withheld material to demonstrate that it is properly encompassed by Exemption 1."  "First, Defendant has cited and provided the Executive Order under which the information is classified."  "[Defendant's] Declaration also certifies that Defendant complied with the procedures set forth in the relevant Executive Orders."  "Defendant has further identified which sections of the order are relevant and described the information withheld and justification for doing so in great detail."
  • Exemption 5, Deliberative Process Privilege:  First, the court finds that defendant properly withheld "'internal discussions among U.S. Government Officials regarding a possible response to a foreign official as well as recommendations on possible topics for discussion and talking points for an upcoming meeting.'"  The court finds that "Defendant has explained that the redacted information was related to formulating a response to a foreign official and to internal discussions about the possible topics for a future meeting."  The court also finds that, "[c]ontrary to Plaintiff's assertion.  Defendant does not need to explicitly state the policy or decision to which these conversations were related."  Second the court finds that defendant's properly withheld information "'regarding a draft list of possible validators of . . . climate change work[.]'"  The court finds that "[a]lthough a list of names is not inherently predecisional or deliberative, it certainly can be; and in this case, it is."  "The document at issue here contains a draft list of 'climate change validators.'"  "This list was subsequently edited and reduced before Defendant created a final list."  "Therefore, the draft list plainly reveals the process through which the final list was decided."  Third, the court finds that defendant properly withheld an "email was written in preparation for a meeting with non-agency staffers, and it discussed whether the Department should engage with Congressional Staff, with subsequent follow-up on how to do so."  The court finds that "[i]t is . . . explicitly predecisional to the determination to a 'final determination on what information to share with congressional staff related to the agreement.'"
  • Exemption 6:  First, the court holds that, "in light of the potential personal import of ["a personal conversation regarding 'career matters'"] and the lack of any cognizable public interest in disclosure[,] Defendant properly withheld this information under Exemption 6."  Second, the court holds that defendant properly withheld "the names of potential climate validators" because "there is an overwhelming privacy interest in withholding their information[]" and, "[f]urther, Plaintiffs do not provide any concrete reasons why revealing the names of these validators would outweigh the privacy interests of the listed individuals."  Third, for similar reasons, the court finds that defendant properly withheld a "summary of conversations between a private individual and 'Indian officials.'"
Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Exemption 1
Exemption 5
Exemption 5, Deliberative Process Privilege
Exemption 6
Updated December 14, 2021