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Energy Department Still Stonewalling Over Task Force Records
Critical Documents From Lundquist and Other Key Task Force Staff Omitted
WASHINGTON (April 11, 2002) - A day after the Department of Energy (DOE) released approximately 1,000 pages of additional information about Vice President Cheney's energy task force, NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) is preparing to take the agency back to federal court. "The Energy Department is still stonewalling, even though the court upheld the public's right to know what its government is doing," said NRDC senior attorney Sharon Buccino.
In February, a federal judge ordered the department to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request made by NRDC in April 2001. Last month, DOE provided roughly 11,000 pages of heavily redacted documents and withheld another 15,000. The new documents the agency delivered yesterday exclude crucial information, most notably calendar entries and correspondence for high-level officials staffing the energy task force. These officials include Andrew Lundquist, Karen Knutson, Charles Smith and Kjersten Drager, all of whom were DOE employees detailed to the Office of the Vice President to oversee the day-to-day operations of the task force. Lundquist served as the task force's executive director; Knutson was his deputy. The Bush administration provided no legal justification for why these latest records are missing.
DOE's latest batch of materials is inadequate, both in terms of quantity and substance, but the documents do reveal hundreds of additional meetings between industry representatives and task force officials. "Clearly, the deck was stacked in favor of polluting industries," added Buccino. "Energy companies had a big hand in helping the White House craft an energy plan that does nothing to ensure national security or protect the environment."
Last year, NRDC also submitted FOIA requests to other federal agencies. The Interior Department illegally withheld extensive information about that agency's role with the energy task force, providing only 881 pages of documents. Over the past year, Interior's Bureau of Land Management has implemented many of the task force's recommendations, such as expanding industry access to energy resources on public lands, streamlining permitting procedures, and expediting the environmental review process. Today, NRDC filed a legal appeal to force the Interior Department to release all records relating to the work of the energy task force.
NRDC is represented by the Washington, D.C. law firm of Meyer and Glitzenstein.
The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, non-profit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has more than 500,000 members nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Legal appeal, 4/11/02 in PDF format, 39k.
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