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How NRDC Brought the Records to Light

In early 2001, Vice President Dick Cheney presided over a task force charged with setting a new national energy policy. For months high-ranking Bush administration officials met in secret with lobbyists and executives from utility companies and the oil, gas, coal and nuclear energy industries. In May 2001 the task force released its recommendations: more subsidies to polluting industries, more reliance on oil, more nuclear power. Despite NRDC's repeated requests for information, the Bush administration refused to disclose the names of industry participants in the task force or what they discussed with Bush policymakers.

In April 2001 NRDC filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act for access to the task force's records; the Bush administration refused to comply. NRDC filed suit, and a federal judge ordered the administration to turn over the documents. On March 25, 2002, nearly a year after first requesting them, NRDC received roughly 10,000 pages relating to the task force from the Department of Energy. Subsequently the department provided another 3,500 pages, but withheld more than 16,000 others.

On April 25 the Energy Department produced (again, under the judge's order) its "Vaughn index," which lists the task force documents the Energy Department has withheld in whole or in part.*

NRDC continues to challenge in court the Energy Department's efforts to maintain secrecy surrounding the task force deliberations.

*The Energy Department later determined that 16 pages withheld and listed on the Vaughn index could in fact be released, and provided them on June 3.

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