- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 27, 2002

The Bush administration sought the advice of environmental groups in drafting its energy plan, but several declined to participate or suggested that Bush officials check their Web sites for information, just-released documents show.
A month and a half before President Bush's energy plan was announced, the Energy Department contacted Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, Environmental Defense, the World Resources Institute, Resources for the Future and four other groups to discuss conservation and energy efficiency.
However, an unstated number of other environmental groups rebuffed administration overtures.
"Not all organizations were responsive. Several did not return phone calls and messages," including the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Energy Department said in an August 2001 letter to the General Accounting Office, which was released Monday night.
The NRDC is one of the groups that has accused the Bush administration of leaving environmentalists out of the drafting process and sued to obtain copies of internal documents showing whom Bush officials consulted in drafting the energy plan. The NRDC submitted a Freedom of Information Act request in April 2001, a month before the energy plan was released.
NRDC spokesman Elliott Negin said yesterday that after receiving a call from "low-level" Energy Department staff, the group referred them to a previously written report, "A Responsible Energy Policy for the 21st Century," because it was given only 24 hours to provide its recommendations.
He said the Energy Department contacted environmental groups well after it sought the advice of industry groups and only because it was "getting hammered" in the press for excluding conservation from its energy strategy.
The NRDC, Sierra Club and about a dozen other groups tried to arrange a meeting with Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham by letter on Feb. 20 but were told that he was "too busy," Mr. Negin said.
Fifteen leading environmentalists finally did get a meeting on April 4 with Andrew D. Lundquist, the director of the energy task force. But "nothing substantive" was discussed, and the meeting was only "a sop" to environmentalists, Mr. Negin said.
Included among the 11,000 pages of documents released late Monday by the department were stacks of papers from the Wilderness Society, AARP, Sierra Club, NRDC and other consumer and environmental groups, which the department said were carefully studied by staff.
Also included were position papers and memos provided by industry groups such as the American Gas Association, American Petroleum Institute and Nuclear Energy Institute. The documents show extensive exchanges of e-mails with some industry representatives, though most of the substance of that correspondence and the correspondence within the administration was whited out.
The schedules of Mr. Abraham and his top staff show that they met primarily with industry officials, executives, members of Congress and other government officials, and had no meetings with environmentalists or consumer groups.
Not provided in Monday's release from the administration were the schedules of Environmental Protection Agency administrator Christie Whitman, the administration's main liaison with environmentalists and an important member of the task force.
White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said the environmental agencies met "routinely" with the advocacy groups. "It's no surprise to anybody that the secretary of energy meets with energy-related groups," he said.
The department said it denied 23 requests for meetings from industry representatives, including Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling of Enron Corp. Much of the litigation aimed at forcing the release of the documents has been justified as serving the investigation into abuses at Enron, which in December filed for the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history.
The documents show that the administration sought the advice of industry groups on such issues as how to increase the output of gasoline at refineries, how to increase the efficiency of the nation's electrical grid and where geological stores of natural gas are most likely to be found in the continental United States.
The administration also considered touting industry accomplishments, such as an innovative Texaco coal-gasification plant and a Reliant clean-coal power plant as examples of future energy technologies.
However, the wish lists that industry groups presented to the administration rarely appeared to be incorporated in full into the plan. Rather, the administration appeared to adopt selected federal subsidies, legislative proposals and regulatory rollbacks proposed by the businesses.
The administration says, for example, that it included only four out of 25 recommendations from the American Petroleum Institute and two out of 20 recommendations from the National Mining Association.
By contrast, it says it adopted nearly half of the 17 recommendations in the NRDC's report. But Mr. Negin said that that "probably is the biggest lie since the Nixon administration" and that the administration is using "Enron accounting."

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