WASHINGTON, DC (May 21, 2002) -- Early this evening, NRDC received some 1,500 pages of documents related to the Vice President Cheney's energy task force. The Energy Department released the material more than a month after a court-ordered deadline to provide all information related to NRDC's Freedom of Information Act request.
According to Sharon Buccino, NRDC senior attorney, "The administration has unlawfully delayed the release of some of the most embarrassing evidence of industry involvement in the Bush energy plan."
Two of the documents illuminate how the coal industry and an industry-funded think tank helped convince President Bush to renege on his campaign promise to regulate carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from power plants. Carbon dioxide emissions are a major cause of global warming. The documents in question are two letters to Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, one from former Senator Jack Kemp on behalf of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and another from a member of the National Coal Council.
Kemp's March 16, 2001, letter lauded the administration for the way it handled the CO2 issue and credited the Competitive Enterprise Institute for "giving the president intellectual support and political cover to 'do the right thing.'" In return, Kemp asked Abraham to attend the group's annual fundraising dinner two months later. Abraham spoke at the dinner, promoted the administration's energy plan and thanked CEI for its "good work." (Abraham's remarks are available at CEI's website, www.cei.org/gencon/003,02468.cfm.) Reporters usually characterize CEI as a "free market think tank," but it is essentially an anti-regulatory public relations front for industry, especially oil and auto companies.
The second letter is from Jane Hughes Turnbull, a member of the National Coal Council, a quasi-government advisory group dominated by coal industry executives. In contrast to the Kemp letter, Turnbull's March 16, 2001, letter called Bush's reversal on regulating CO2 "profoundly shortsighted [and] an obvious and expedient response to industry interests...." She sent the letter to announce her resignation from the council because "pressure from the National Coal Council contributed to this decision."She noted that the council's "leadership was intent on bolstering the economic well-being of the industry, if need be at the expense of the environment."
NRDC also uncovered evidence showing the Bush administration implemented energy policies requested by Chevron Corporation. The company provided several recommendations, ranging from easing federal permitting rules for energy projects to relaxing standards fuel supply requirements, which ultimately were included in the president's national energy plan.
In a February 5, 2002, letter to President George Bush and copied to Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, Chevron CEO David J. O'Reilly recommends four short-term actions the administration should take to "eliminate federal barriers to increased energy supplies." The energy task force -- officially known as the National Energy Policy Development Group (NEPDG) -- included all of Chevron's recommendations in its report to President Bush on May 17, 2001.
Other documents reveal key involvement by the National Mining Association, the National Petroleum & Refiners Association, General Motors and other major industries in the development of the Bush energy plan.
"The administration's policy may signal a glowing future for big energy companies but it's a bleak one for the environment and public health," said NRDC senior attorney Sharon Buccino.
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.