May 11, 2005 – Vice President Dick Cheney does not have to provide records to the public detailing the extent to which corporations shaped national energy policy early in the first Bush administration, an appeals court ruled Tuesday.
The Sierra Club and Judicial Watch had asked for documents to be released showing the participation of ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco, Enron, Halliburton Co., and other energy-related corporations in the inner workings of the administration's 2001 National Energy Policy Development Group, which Cheney headed up. The NEPDG recommended allowing drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and providing tax breaks to oil and natural gas companies.
The advocacy groups sought the documents through the Freedom of Information Act and the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which requires advisory committees to make their records available to the public. They argued that the corporations were de facto members of the panel partly because of their close relationships with Cheney and Bush. They also pointed out that no environmental groups were asked for their input in formulating the policies.
In an 8-0 decision, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the administration does not have to release the documents because Bush only named federal officials to the committee, and that no outside individual had veto or voting rights within the group.
"Now, the American people will never learn how the polluting energy policy that President Bush continues to push was crafted," responded Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope in a press statement.