Court Orders DOE to Stop Stonewalling in Transparency Lawsuit

Court Orders DOE to Stop Stonewalling in Transparency Lawsuit

  • February 23, 2022

Granholm’s agency continues to disregard legal obligations and its own deadlines

Today, Protect the Public’s Trust announced a federal judge has ordered the Department of Energy (DOE) to begin producing documents by a court-imposed deadline in the watchdog’s transparency lawsuit. The order comes after DOE twice missed the agency’s self-reported deadlines for producing records in the case.

In response to the lawsuit, DOE originally pledged to release records on the last day of each month beginning on December 31, 2021. The agency’s first production was a heavily redacted set of documents provided more than two weeks after the deadline DOE itself had proposed to the Court, and only after prodding by counsel. Delays continued, and the agency has yet to produce a single additional document despite more than three weeks passing since the most recent date it had promised to provide records. In an order issued Tuesday, the Court declared DOE “must make its first production by February 28, and continue to make rolling productions on the 28th of each month thereafter, processing at least 300 pages per month.”

DOE’s response toward its responsibilities in this case appears consistent with the flippant attitude it has expressed regarding ethics commitments of high-ranking officials. Recently, a Department spokesperson released a statement that seemingly declared policy priorities took precedence over ethics obligations at DOE under Secretary Jennifer Granholm. Over the last several months, PPT, other watchdog groups, and federal lawmakers have expressed concerns over several apparent ethics violations by top officials, including one that prompted the Freedom of Information Act request at the center of this lawsuit.

“Just as we had hoped DOE would comply with their transparency obligations without having to take them to court, we also hoped they would comply with their own proposed timelines in producing records during the proceedings,” stated Michael Chamberlain, Director of Protect the Public’s Trust. “The American public, whose trust in government has sunk to all-time lows, had high hopes when the Biden Administration promised to be the most ethical and transparent in history. Sadly, Secretary Granholm’s Department of Energy doesn’t appear to have gotten the message and the public’s trust in its government continues to suffer for it.”