- 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.