May 23, 2022, Washington DC – President Biden’s joint Energy Task force with the European Union is shrouded in so much secrecy that it appears to break the law, warned environmental organisation Global Witness amidst concerns over fossil fuel industry interference.
The task force was announced at the end of March, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with the stated intentions of diversifying Europe away from Russian gas, as well as reducing demand for fossil gas altogether. It has met three times since its inception and included unnamed “industry participants”.
Global Witness is today warning that in refusing to declare the names and interests of attendees, the White House appears to be in breach of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) that allows civil society, journalists and the public to hold vital scrutiny over who is engaging with the government on key issues that affect them. And that this lack of transparency could be allowing those with an interest to continue the extraction and burning of fossil fuels to have undue influence.
Zorka Milin, Senior Advisor at Global Witness, said:
“The secrecy around this critical task force is reminiscent of some of the worst actions of the Trump administration in handing public policy over to private interests, while appearing to violate the law.
“The presence of unnamed industry participants, coupled with the complete lack of voices from frontline communities and those affected by the climate crisis, suggests this task force is an industry stitch up to deepen the global dependency on fossil fuels.”
“Cross-Atlantic cooperation in the face of Russa’s brutal aggression is to be commended but an industry seeking to take advantage of the suffering of Ukrainian people is frankly perverse. Our reliance on fossil fuels has got us into a situation where people are struggling to pay bills, the climate is under its biggest threat yet and autocrats like Putin are emboldened. It’s difficult to see how the architects of this can be expected to find the solutions.”
Global Witness has today filed a letter to President Biden, demanding that proceedings around this task force are transparent, reminding that any conclusions will have important impacts on US citizens, particularly those residing near proposed gas export projects.
While drawing parallels to the Trump administration, Global Witness is also citing the notorious energy task force set up by Vice President Dick Cheney in 2001, that has been subject to numerous legal attempts by civil society to force its records to be brought into the public domain.
Global Witness is therefore calling on President Biden, under the legal obligations of the FACA, to:
- Ensure the membership of the task force is fairly balanced in terms of views
- Make sure all meetings are open to the public
- Require all attendees to file declarations of interest
- Mandate that detailed minutes are kept and all records, transcripts and other relevant material be made publicly available