- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 26, 2002

From combined dispatches
The Bush administration turned over thousands of documents yesterday related to Vice President Richard B. Cheney's energy task force, including some showing that industries tried to influence regulations and proposals affecting them.
But most of the papers, released in response to court orders, were blanked out and provided little substantive information. This prompted critics to accuse the administration of continuing to hold back information on consultations over the development of President Bush's energy plan.
Two federal judges ordered the release of the papers, including numerous copies of e-mail messages, as part of lawsuits brought by Judicial Watch, a conservative government-watchdog group, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, a liberal environmentalist group.
"There should be many more documents from energy industry executives, and they are missing," Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton told the Associated Press.
The groups were trying to determine who influenced the crafting of the administration's energy plan. The papers came from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Agriculture and Energy departments and the White House Office of Management and Budget.
Of the nearly 5,000 documents obtained by Judicial Watch, most of the internal communications were heavily redacted, often with only the names of the senders and recipients, and subject headings, left readable, said Larry Klayman, the group's chairman.
"What we've seen so far, the Bush administration is withholding an inordinate amount of documents, suggesting they are obstructing these proceedings," Mr. Klayman said.
The administration also was facing a lawsuit by the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, which wanted to learn the names of people who met with Mr. Cheney or his top aides leading up to the energy report's release. That lawsuit was not involved in the release of documents yesterday.
Documents from the EPA showed that industry groups tried to persuade the task force of the industries' publicly stated stances.
Among the papers turned over by the EPA was a three-page memo from the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, dated March 22, 2001, declaring that the federal auto fuel economy rule, known as CAFE, "is an ineffective energy policy."
The alliance instead supported consumer tax credits for advanced-technology vehicles, and urged development of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. The task force report supported such tax benefits, refrained from urging higher fuel economy requirements and urged development of hydrogen-powered vehicles.
At least three major oil companies, according to papers released by EPA, urged the administration to take steps to eliminate the "boutique" gasoline required in many parts of the country.
One of the companies, Citco, urged the administration "to exercise federal authority to prevent states" from establishing separate fuel standards. The Cheney task force urged the EPA to deal with the boutique fuels issue.


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