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JULY 12, 2002
10:05 AM
CONTACT:  Sierra Club
David Willett, 202-675-6698
Judge Chastises Administration in Cheney Energy Task Force Suit
"[The Administration's argument] would eviscerate the understanding of checks and balances between the three branches of government on which our constitutional order depends."
Judge Emmet Sullivan's Memorandum Opinion, (p.64)
WASHINGTON - July 12 - Judge Emmet Sullivan yesterday issued his written opinion allowing the Sierra Club and Judicial Watch to proceed with their suits challenging the Bush Administration's attempts to keep Cheney Task Force meetings with energy industry executives secret. In the opinion, Judge Sullivan wrote that Vice President Cheney and his co-defendants were seeking a ruling from him that "would eviscerate the understanding of checks and balances between the three branches of government on which our constitutional order depends."

The Judge chastised the Justice Department lawyers for attempting to mislead the court, writing:

"the fact that the government has stubbornly refused to acknowledge the existing controlling law in at least two cases, does not strike this Court as a coincidence. One or two isolated mis-citations or misleading interpretations of precedent are forgivable mistakes of busy counsel, but a consistent pattern of misconstruing precedent presents a much more serious concern." (p.64, footnote 14)

In May, Vice President Cheney and other Administration Officials were rebuffed by Judge Sullivan, who ruled from the bench against their motions to dismiss the Sierra Club and Judicial Watch lawsuits. The Federal court today issued the Judge's written order and opinion setting forth the reasons for his ruling.

The Sierra Club suit asserts that by refusing to tell the public about the influence energy industries had in crafting national energy policy, the Cheney Task Force violated the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA). The Sierra Club is asking the court to require Vice President Cheney and other defendants to disclose to the American people what went on behind closed doors in the creation of the national energy policy. The suit has been consolidated with a similar suit filed by Judicial Watch. The Federal District Court ruled today against the Administration's motions to dismiss both lawsuits.

"The Judge's strong words for the government clearly show that attempts to hoodwink the American public will not be tolerated," said Carl Pope, Executive Director of the Sierra Club. "Americans deserve to know what happened behind those closed doors when the energy industry met with Administration officials, and the law requires letting the light shine into that darkened room."

The Sierra Club filed this lawsuit after the Bush Administration refused to divulge how much influence big energy companies like Enron and oil and coal producers had in crafting the nation's energy policy, despite numerous requests from Congress and others.

"At a time when people are concerned about corporate responsibility, and the Administration's ties to business, it's vital that Americans know how much influence polluting industry executives had over our national energy plan," continued Pope.

The energy policy that ultimately came out of the Administration relies on technologies that will pollute our air and water, destroy special places and fail to reduce our dependence on oil and coal. At the very least, the American people deserve an explanation of why the Administration chose this path rather than safer and cleaner technologies that would protect the environment and save consumers money at the same time.

Judge Sullivan's ruling today also set forth a schedule for allowing the Sierra Club and Judicial Watch to proceed with discovery, the legal process where they will be allowed to review details about the participation of energy executives in the activities of the Cheney Energy Task Force. The Sierra Club and Judicial Watch are to submit their proposals for discovery by Friday, July 19.

The Sierra Club is asking for a full accounting of what happened behind the closed doors of the Cheney Energy Task Force, including: who was in the room; what proposals did the energy industry executives and lobbyists make; what documents did the energy industry submit; and what Task Force documents did they review.

A .pdf file of the ruling is available by calling 202-675-6698.


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