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Think tank to sue Treasury to make carbon tax proposal emails public

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Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is expected to be sued Tuesday by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which seeks to force release of more than 7,300 internal government emails concerning a carbon tax proposal. (AP Photo)

A conservative Washington think tank will file suit Tuesday seeking to force Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to make public more than 7,300 internal emails circulated in recent months among senior executives in his department about a carbon tax proposal officials say taxpayers don't need to know about.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute will file the suit in federal district court tomorrow because Treasury Department officials denied the non-profit organization's request for a waiver of reproduction fees under the federal Freedom of Information Act.

Treasury officials also told CEI that the cost of photocopying the emails in order to make them public would not be worth the cost because doing so "would not significantly inform the public about the operations or activities of government."

There would be no reproduction costs, however, because, according to CEI, the non-profit told Treasury it would accept an electronic version of the emails.

"At first, Treasury illegally delayed responding to CEI for several months," said Christopher Horner, an attorney, senior fellow at CEI and author of a recent book, The Liberal War on Transparency.

"Now, it refused to issue a waiver of fees even though courts have been clear these fees were designed for non-profit watchdog groups. It claims this would place an outrageous cost burden on the agency. It would cost the agency the cost of one CD disc and the time it would take to download the emails to the disc," Horner said.

In a statement to be released tomorrow, CEI says enactment of "some levy on energy consumption has been a policy goal of environmental groups for at least two decades, since Al Gore's politically disastrous attempt to push a BTU Tax in 1993. In 2010, with both houses of Congress in Democratic hands, President Obama pushed for cap-and-trade legislation. When that failed because of intense public opposition, he vowed to return, saying there are 'other ways to skin the cat.' This, presumably, is one of those other ways."

The carbon tax proposal that has been under discussion at the Treasury Department will be introduced in Congress by one of Obama's congressional supporters, according to CEI.

"Although President Obama repeatedly promised openness and transparency in government, even liberal watchdogs have despaired that his has become one of the most secretive administrations ever," said Horner.

"This administration has attempted to conceal its involvement in this proposal not just until the elections were over but beyond, to the point where disclosure will come too late to meaningfully inform the public. This shameful lack of transparency must stop, beginning with the administration coming clean about its effort to impose a massive, harmful new energy tax," he said.

Mark Tapscott is executive editor of The Washington Examiner.