Energy Task Force Records and GAO to go to court to obtain Energy Task Force records
In the spring of 2002, under order from a federal judge, the U.S. Department of Energy released to NRDC roughly 13,500 pages relating to previously secret proceedings of the Bush administration’s energy task force. (President Bush formed the task force in early 2001 to develop a national energy policy, with Vice President Cheney at the helm.) Even though the government heavily censored the documents before supplying them to NRDC, they reveal that Bush administration officials sought extensive advice from utility companies and the oil, gas, coal and nuclear energy industries, and incorporated their recommendations, often word for word, into the energy plan.
Before turning over the energy task force records to NRDC, the Bush administration removed extensive portions of information. Some pages were empty. Whole strings of correspondence were stripped to just a few words.
Yet even with this censorship the records reveal that industry lobbyists not only played a pivotal role in developing the administration’s national energy strategy, they wrote much of it themselves. The administration sought the advice of polluting corporations early and often and then incorporated their recommendations into its policy, sometimes verbatim.
The following pages, while a tiny sampling of the task force records, illustrate both the influence industry lobbyists wielded and the degree to which the Bush administration continues to try to cloak the task force’s proceedings in secrecy.
“Section 2 – All federal authorities shall include in any regulatory action that could significantly and adversely affect energy supplies, distribution, or use, a detailed statement on (i) the energy impact of the proposed action… prior to taking such regulatory action, the agency shall consult with, and obtain the concurrence of the Secretary of Energy.”
Two – The EPA’s enforcement campaign against refineries should be halted and reexamined… As you know, it is impossible to build new refineries. The Browner EPA launched an extensive coordinated campaign against the industry so the industry has had to add capacity at existing sites. The EPA has sent section 114 requests, in effect blanket subpoenas, to most refiners, and many are now facing notices of violation and legal action. A few have settled because they believe it is easier to pay a fine.
The patent will also make it even harder to use ethanol in gasoline where ozone problems exist in the summer months (e.g. Chicago and Milwaukee). The Administration should study this issue and take steps to put any royalty collections on hold.
June 2001 email is to Francis Blake, then deputy secretary of energy, from Kyle McSlarrow, chief of staff to Secretary Abraham. Illustrating the close ties between the current Department of Energy and the industries it governs, McSlarrow points out that he inadvertently sent a message to Blake at the deputy secretary’s former email address at General Electric.
“Sorry, I accidently sent this to your old GE e-mail.”
Click the link above to access records.
PLEASE READ BEFORE VIEWING DOCUMENTS
The task force records are in Adobe Acrobat PDF format (click for Acrobat Reader)
The PDF files are large and may load slowly if you’re not on a high-speed connection
To manage the number and size of PDF files, NRDC compiled documents into batches generally around 25 pages; pages are not necessarily related because they are grouped together and, conversely, related pages may be separated into more than one PDF file
While documents are searchable, search results may not be comprehensive
What’s Here and How it Got Here
On March 25, 2002, as a result of an NRDC lawsuit, the U.S. Department of Energy provided NRDC approximately 10,000 pages of documents relating to Vice President Cheney’s National Energy Policy Development Group, more commonly called the energy task force. In April and May the department turned over an additional 3,500 pages. (The department also continued to send some additional pages in June and July.) Among these documents are meeting notes, daily schedules of Energy Department officials and correspondence with and policy recommendations from outside parties.
The Energy Department provided NRDC with paper documents. NRDC immediately began to review and analyze the records while also reproducing them for the Internet in order to make them available to the public. First the originals were scanned and saved as electronic files. Then they were converted to searchable text using Optical Character Recognition software, or OCR. In order to preserve the original appearance of the documents, both the scanned picture of each page and the text produced by the OCR software were embedded in the final files.
How the Documents are Organized
Before turning over the documents the Energy Department added Bates numbers — the large numbers that appear on each page, usually in the lower right corner. The Bates numbers range from 1 to 30,017 but large gaps exist throughout the series — the Energy Department withheld more than 16,000 pages.
NRDC grouped the documents into batches, generally around 25 pages each, in order to make them easier to review online. We grouped multiple documents together so there would be fewer files to search through and download; we kept the page counts down so the files wouldn’t be unwieldy, especially for people using older computers and slower Internet connections.
The sequence of the documents in batches 1 through 402 follows the sequence of the DOE’s Bates numbers, though as noted above many pages are missing. Documents in batches numbered 1000 and above appear in the order they were submitted to NRDC by the DOE.
NRDC has not grouped like documents together except in following DOE’s sequence. And while we made an effort not to break up related pages, for example a cover letter and its attachments, because of the volume of documents, our commitment to making them public quickly, and user-convenience considerations, we have likely done so in some cases.
The Energy Department withheld more than 16,000 pages of the task force records. In addition, many of the documents provided have been heavily redacted (censored). NRDC continues to fight in court to obtain the remaining documents that we, and you, are legally entitled to see. Click here for the DOE’s “Vaugh index,” provided under court order, which lists the documents the department withheld.
Some of the documents the DOE provided in print are already available on the Web (including an NRDC report). Those documents and their Web addresses are listed under Other Web Documents on the View Documents page.
Begin your search by using the website’s Search the Cheney Energy Task Force Records box to locate documents that contain particular words or phrases. Your search will pull up one or more “batch files”; each batch file consists of several pages bundled together. (A batch might be one 25-page document, one-third of a 75-page document, or several short documents, such as email messages.)
In a letter to Rep. Waxman, David Walker, head of the General Accounting Office, announces that GAO will sue the Administration to obtain access to records of the White House energy task force chaired by Vice President Cheney. The links below to the GAO documents were no longer available so I downloaded the PDFs. They can viewed below.