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E-M:/ Sierra Club Files Suit Against Cheney's Energy Task Force



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Enviro-Mich message from "Daniel Farough" <daniel.farough@sierraclub.org>
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Folks,

As we debate a national energy plan that will have significant impact for
people in Michigan, the National Sierra Club filed a lawsuit to obtain full
disclosure of who participated and what was said during the diliberations of
Cheney's Energy Task Force.  Below is the press release for those following
this issue in Michigan.


For Immediate Release: January 25, 2002
Contact: David Willett, 202-675-6698

          Sierra Club Files Suit Against Cheney's Energy Task Force

                 Case Asserts Task Force Kept Public Out,
               Dealt with Oil Companies Behind Closed Doors

SAN FRANCISO: The public could soon learn how much influence Enron CEO Ken
Lay and other power-company executives had in ghostwriting the Bush
Administration's energy plan.

After numerous attempts by Congress and others to find out how much
influence polluting industries had in drafting the energy plan, the Sierra
Club is forced to file a suit today against Vice President Cheney's Energy
Task Force, which prepared the proposal.  The suit, filed in San Francisco
federal court under the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), asks that
the White House give a full accounting of who from private industry
participated in crafting the national energy policy it introduced last May.

"It's extremely unfortunate that it takes a lawsuit to learn out how much
influence polluting companies had over a policy affecting all Americans.
If the White House had conducted their meetings in the light of day, we
wouldn't need this lawsuit," said Carl Pope, Executive Director of the
Sierra Club.  "The American people were shut out of this process while
energy companies and oil industry were given the red-carpet treatment.
Americans deserve to know what happened behind those closed doors -- and
the law requires it."

According to The Financial Times (Jan. 21, 2002, "Cheney Under Pressure
Over Contacts with Enron"), Vice President Cheney admits to having met six
times last spring with Lay, but he refuses to give details about those
meetings.  Undue involvement by Enron executives and others in drafting the
energy plan is at the heart of what the Sierra Club hopes this suit will
bring to light.

"The energy policy that eventually came out of those meetings heavily
favors the outdated and polluting fossil fuel industries whose
representatives appear to have helped draft the policy," continued Pope.
"If the Administration built its energy policy on the recommendations of
the likes of Enron, Americans deserve to know about it before it's too
late.  Vice President Cheney is acting like the public has no business
asking about the closed-door meetings that shaped the Administration's
energy policy.  We're here to say that the future of energy in this country
is every citizen's buisness."

Background on Task Force

On January 29, 2001 President Bush signed a memorandum to Vice President
Cheney, commissioning the National Energy Policy Development Group, better
known as the "Cheney Energy Task Force."  The membership of the Energy Task
Force included the Vice President as chair, Andrew Lundquist as executive
director, and the Secretaries of Energy, Commerce, Transportation,
Interior, Agriculture, Treasury, and the EPA Administrator.  The Task Force
held its first meeting that same day, and held at least eight additional
meetings between February and May of 2001.  On May 16, 2001, the Energy
Task Force submitted a report to President Bush, setting forth the
committee's findings and recommendations for a "National Energy Policy."
Congress currently is considering legislation based on the Administration's
energy policy.

According to media accounts, a parade of CEOs and other business leaders
from the energy industry participated in the Task Force's work.  Media
accounts also suggest that the final findings and recommendations of the
Energy Task Force were heavily influenced by the participation of the
energy industry leaders, with some parts of the policy taking passages
verbatim from industry proposals.

Requests for Information Unsuccessful

Throughout 2001, and continuing to the present, Congressional leaders and
the General Accounting Office (GAO) have tried with little success to find
out what went on in these secretive meetings.  Representatives Henry Waxman
and John Dingell, GAO Comptroller General David Walker and GAO General
Counsel Anthony Gamboa have corresponded numerous times with Vice President
Cheney, Task Force Director Lundquist, and Counsel to the Vice President
David Addington but have not received substantive responses. This past
fall, Sierra Club lawyers sent requests for information under Freedom of
Information Act and Federal Advisory Committee Act to Vice President
Cheney, Lundquist, and the agency heads listed as defendants.

"We have yet to receive even the most basic information about the energy
task force, like who it met with and what documents it received," Rep.
Dingell wrote in the New York Times ("Who Helped Cheney," Jan. 24, 2002).
"The Federal Advisory Committee Act requires that meetings of
nongovernmental advisers be conducted in public, just to avoid the
appearance of secret favoritism."

Sierra Club lawyers also have tried unsuccessfully to obtain basic
information from Vice President Cheney and the Task Force about the
participation of industry special interests in its work.

Legal Background

The Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) requires that government meetings
in which nongovernmental special interests participate be conducted in the
open.  The purpose of this "good government" law is precisely to protect
against secret favoritism, and to avoid the appearance of closed-door
corruption.  To keep government in the sunshine, FACA requires that
advisory committees must open their meetings to the public, allow
interested parties to attend, provide the public with access to meeting
transcripts, minutes, and other committee records, keep adequate minutes,
and file an advisory committee charter.

FACA applies generally to government advisory committees with
nongovernmental members.  The suit seeks to compel the White House to
disclose information about the membership, minutes, records, and documents
of the advisory group, as FACA requires.

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