NRDC Sues Department of Energy to Expose Cheney Task Force Secrets
Environmentalists Seek Documents to Identify Industry's Influence on National Energy Policy Development
WASHINGTON (December 11, 2001) -- After waiting nearly eight months for a response, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) today filed a lawsuit to force the Department of Energy (DOE) to produce records regarding the agency's role in the operations of the National Energy Policy Development Group chaired by Vice President Dick Cheney. DOE's refusal to provide basic information about its involvement with the so-called energy task force violates the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), according to NRDC.
NRDC submitted its FOIA request the month before the release of President Bush's national energy plan on May 17. The group sought the identity of members of the task force, records related to the stated purpose of the task force, and calendars and meeting notes of the agency staff performing work related to the task force.
"Our request for information about who helped formulate the Bush administration's energy plan was straightforward and reasonable. There is no excuse for the Department of Energy's bureaucratic stonewalling. We now have no choice but to press our legal rights until the agency is forced to allow the truth to come out," said NRDC senior attorney Sharon Buccino.
DOE initially denied NRDC's request by refusing to grant a fee waiver, an unusual action given that non-profit organizations are routinely granted public information without having to pay for the agency's search for records. NRDC demonstrated the unlawfulness of the DOE's denial, but the agency has yet to turn over the information.
NRDC's exclusion from the process appears to part of the Bush administration's decision to deliberately conceal basic facts about the energy task force's surreptitious operations from the public and from Congress. The Bush administration has rebuffed requests for the same basic information by members of Congress, as well as the General Accounting Office.
"The big question is who was involved behind closed doors in developing the administration's pro-industry energy plan," said Buccino. The House of Representatives passed energy legislation (H.R. 4) in August that closely mirrors the Bush administration's proposal, Buccino noted. The Senate has been debating the issue ever since. "The public deserves to know what role industry lobbyists played in developing the task force's recommendations before Congress sets America's new energy path," she added.
NRDC's lawsuit is being filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. NRDC is being represented by the 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.
Related NRDC Pages
A Responsible Energy Policy for the 21st Century
Additional Downloadable Materials for the Press
Copy of the complaint in PDF format, 16k