Energy Task Force
On his 10th day as vice president, Dick Cheney established a secret "Energy Task Force," formally known as the National Energy Policy Development Group (NEPDG), for the purpose of making recommendations to President Bush on energy policy. In formulating a new energy strategy for America, the task force met secretly with lobbyists and representatives of the petroleum, coal, nuclear, natural gas, and
electricity industries. Many of these individuals work for energy companies which gave large campaign contributions to Bush/Cheney 2000. Environmental groups were mostly excluded from the task force.###
Members of Congress demanded Cheney release the names of individuals and corporations who gave information and advice to the task force. But the vice president refused. After pressure from the General Accounting Office (GAO), the independent auditing arm of Congress, Cheney did release limited information about the task force. The GAO issued a report on the information and found several corporations and associations, including Chevron Corp. (now part of ChevronTexaco Corp.) and the National Mining Association, gave detailed energy policy recommendations for the task force.
According to the GAO's report, "senior agency officials" with the Department of Energy met "numerous times" with energy companies to provide advice to Cheney's energy task force. Those companies include Bechtel, Chevron, American Coal Company, Small Refiners Association, the Coal Council, CSX, Kerr-McGee, Nuclear Energy Institute, the National Mining Association, General Motors, the National Petroleum Council, and the energy lobbying firm of Barbour, Griffith & Rogers. In addition, the Secretary of Energy discussed national energy policy with chief executive officers of petroleum, electricity, nuclear, coal, chemical, and natural gas companies, among others. The task force even sought and received advice from the now-disgraced and bankrupt Enron Corporation.
The GAO does not know whether Halliburton was one of the companies involved in making recommendations to the energy task force. And Cheney refuses to release all the documents which can prove or disprove Halliburton's involvement, which only fuels suspicion that Cheney has something to hide.
The energy task force members include Vice President Cheney (the chairman) and the Secretaries of State, Treasury, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Transportation and Energy. The remaining members of the task force are the Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Administrator of the Office of Management and Budget, Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy, Assistant to the President for Economic Policy, and the Deputy Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs.
Note that the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is not a member of the task force, but Cheney was quick to report that "110 EPA employees" participated in the task force's "efforts." The EPA administrator and agency staff had met with environmental and conservation organizations to help prepare the task force report, but there is no information on whether such meetings were more common than industry meetings or how often the meetings took place. The EPA had also met with the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Edison Electric Institute.
The task force formally convened 10 times between January 29, 2001, and May 16, 2001. Only federal government employees attended these meetings, according to the limited information released by Cheney. But the GAO cannot confirm or deny whether individuals from energy companies met privately with the task force because, the GAO says, "no party [from the task force] provided us with any documentary evidence to support or negate this assertion." Nor will Dick Cheney voluntarily provide the information to prove or disprove it.
Judicial Watch and the Sierra Club filed a lawsuit in federal court to obtain the release of all of the task force records. The lawsuit argues that in 2001 Cheney violated the "open-government" law, known as the Federal Advisory Committee Act, by meeting behind closed doors with energy industry executives, analysts and lobbyists. The lawsuit continues today. A federal appeals court ruled in July 2003 that Cheney must supply all the information requested in the lawsuit. But Cheney continues to stonewall the request. So, on December 15, 2003, the Supreme Court announced it will hear Cheney's appeal of the case. Three weeks later, Cheney and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia spent a weekend together duck hunting at a private resort in southern Louisiana, giving rise to calls for Scalia to recuse himself from Cheney's appeal. So far, Scalia has refused.
Public interest groups speculate the stonewalling by Cheney might be proof that the task force records show unprecedented corporate cronyism in the Bush administration, possibly showing an excessive or disproportionate influence over energy policy by Halliburton and other energy companies. The records may also reveal the true reasons for why the Bush administration demanded war with Iraq.
In July 2003, after two years of legal action through the Freedom of Information Act, Judicial Watch was finally able to obtain some documents from the task force. Those documents include maps of Iraqi and other mideast oilfields, pipelines, refineries and terminals, two charts detailing various Iraqi oil and gas projects, and a March 2001 list of "Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield Contracts."
In January 2003, The Wall Street Journal reported that representatives from Halliburton, Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron-Texaco Corp. and Conoco-Phillips, among others, had met with Vice President Cheney's staff to plan the post-war revival of Iraq's oil industry. However, both Cheney and the companies deny the meeting took place.
GAO Cites Corporate Shaping of Energy Plan
Bush's Energy Plan Bares Industry Clout: Cheney-led task force consulted extensively with corporate executives
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Congressman Waxman demands Cheney release information about Enron's contacts with the Energy Task Force
All about oil: Article explaining lawsuit against Cheney
Democratic Underground: Mr. Cheney, Step Down
GAO report on Cheney's Energy Task Force
Good excerpts from GAO's Report on Cheney's Energy Task Force
Justice Scalia's memo explaining his refusal to recuse himself
Energy task force documents released so far