FIRST ON FOX: Internal Biden administration communications obtained by Fox News Digital showed that the State Department has consulted with environmental groups on policies including a potential coal investment ban.
Special Presidential Envoy for Climate (SPEC) John Kerry’s office exchanged emails with eco groups to schedule off-paper meetings on the key policy items last fall, according to documents obtained by government watchdog Protect the Public’s Trust (PPT) and shared with Fox News Digital. The documents showed communications involving Jesse Young, a senior policy adviser in Kerry’s office.
In the first instance, the Sierra Club, a major environmental group that advocates for an aggressive transition from fossil fuels, asked to meet with Young to discuss a coal investment ban. The exchange took place in September 2021 ahead of the annual United Nations (UN) climate conference which Kerry, President Biden and other top U.S. officials attended.
“I’ve been doing a bunch of thinking on potential next steps on the agenda of ending investment in new coal, particularly after the China announcement,” Steve Herz, a Sierra Club senior attorney and international climate policy adviser, wrote to Young. “Would you have 20 minutes in the coming days?”
While Young responded that he wasn’t the lead on policies regarding China or coal investment, he shared the contact information of others in the SPEC office who could be a better resource for Herz.
“I also understand you’re not the China/coal guy,” Herz responded. “My thinking wasn’t on China per se, it was more around the prospect of responding to China’s announcement with US regulation of private international coal finance.”
“I think Biden has the executive authority to take a range of steps to end [new coal financing], starting with preventing US banks funding,” he added. “And pushing the UK, Japanese, and others to do the same with their private banks.”
Young then asked whether the Department of Treasury has the authority to execute such an action. Herz responded that Biden had the authority to initiate the action, the Treasury Department could execute the action and there would be a “diplomatic component” also.
In addition, a few months later, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) contacted Young to schedule an “ambition accelerator” meeting with multiple environmental groups pushing green transition policies.
“We are fully aware [REDACTED] schedule is insane, but we’d be grateful for a bit of time to discuss as we see this as one of the major political outcomes … we need to land this week,” Brendan Guy, the director of NRDC’s international program, wrote to Young on Nov. 8, 2021, amid the UN climate conference.
Guy proposed for the meeting to include leaders from NRDC, World Resources Institute (WRI), E3G and the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. Guy confirmed availability for later in the week in the final email included in the documents obtained by PPT.
The emails showing coordination on policy with the Sierra Club and NRDC are the latest evidence that Kerry’s office has communicated with far-left green groups on such issues.
Separate email dumps obtained by PPT in August and September and shared with Fox News Digital showed that the SPEC office consulted with environmental groups on multiple other occasions. In some cases, environmental groups even appeared to act as a go-between in certain international climate discussions involving Kerry’s office.
The internal communications, though, haven’t shown any similar meetings or discussions with fossil fuel industry stakeholders.
“One of the foundational elements of the American constitutional system of government is that the public has a say in how they are governed,” PPT Director Michael Chamberlain told FOX News Digital. “In the executive branch this is expressed via officials who are appointed by the President.”
“Each set of documents PPT has obtained from the State Department reveals the blurred line between the President’s appointees who are supposed to work for the American public and powerful special interests who work for unknown billionaires and, in some cases, have questionable ties to the Chinese government,” he continued. “The more we learn, the more it calls into question whether policy from John Kerry’s office is being outsourced to special interests with an agenda that could be driving America’s energy and inflation crises.”
Republican lawmakers have also expressed concerns in light of the documents and communications showing coordination with green groups.
“The American people need to know administration officials are looking out for the interests of our own nation,” Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., the ranking member on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, told Fox News Digital in a statement Monday. “It’s clear that John Kerry is pushing the agenda of left wing special interest groups.”
“The last thing we need is to strangle investment in proven energy sources in the middle of an energy crisis,” he continued. “That’s exactly what Kerry is trying to do. He should come clean about his relationship with these groups and explain how they’ve influenced his destructive policies.”
And GOP leaders on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Oversight and Reform Committee have announced two separate congressional inquiries into Kerry’s office in response to the previous Fox News Digital reports.
Axios reported last week that Kerry was considering soon resigning from his post to avoid congressional oversight should Republicans win back majority control of the House. However, Kerry vehemently denied the reports.
“The Department of State regularly responds to requests for informational briefings from non-governmental stakeholders,” a State Department spokesperson told Fox News Digital in an email.
“In advance of the 27th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27), the Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for Climate provided responsive briefings for a wide range of U.S. stakeholders including with religious and faith leaders, state and local governments, tribal leaders, youth organizations, environmental organizations, and U.S. businesses and trade associations,” they continued.
The spokesperson noted that Kerry delivered remarks at CERAWeek, a major energy industry conference, earlier this year when asked whether the SPEC office has consulted with fossil fuel groups.
President Biden appointed Kerry to be the first-ever SPEC, a cabinet-level position tasked with engaging in climate negotiations with foreign nations, shortly after taking office in January 2021. Kerry’s office is housed at the State Department and has an estimated $13.9 million annual budget with approval for 45 personnel.
But since Kerry’s appointment, which didn’t require Senate approval and grants him a seat on the National Security Council, his office has been tight-lipped about its staff and operations. A Fox News Digital review of online career portals in August identified several current SPEC employees, all of whom previously worked at left-wing think tanks and organizations including the NRDC and WRI.
More emails obtained by Fox News Digital via PPT in August showed officials in Kerry’s office discussed plans to keep certain high-level discussions “off paper.” The office further redacted the name of every State Department official included, either directly or indirectly, in the email dump.