Documents Reveal Energy Head Met No Environmentalists
Documents Reveal Energy Head Met No Environmentalists
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS . NY Times . 26 march 2002
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham and his top aides worked closely with industry executives and lobbyists who were major campaign contributors to frame the Bush White House's energy plan last year, according to documents released under court orders.
From last February through July, Abraham met with representatives of at least 20 energy corporations and trade associations that gave more than $4.1 million to Republicans from 1999 through 2001. Democrats received at least $1.7 million from the same sources in the same period.
The 11,000 pages of heavily edited documents from the Energy Department provide the first glimpse into the behind-the-scenes efforts that shaped the energy policy unveiled last May by President Bush.
In releasing the documents, Abraham insisted that the Cheney task force ``not only sought but included all viewpoints'' and issued ``a balanced and comprehensive energy plan.''
The documents were released late Monday to meet a court-imposed deadline in lawsuits to lift the cloak covering the internal working of Bush's energy policy task force chaired by Vice President Dick Cheney. The department is fighting to keep most of an additional 15,000 pages secret.
``Hi, Joe,'' an American Petroleum Institute executive said in an e-mail last March to senior Abraham adviser Joe Kelliher. Kelliher was the department's point man with the White House on Cheney's energy plan.
Laying out a proposal that Bush adopted as his own two months later, the oil industry trade group suggested the president issue an executive order requiring federal officials to formally consider the impact on energy supplies before they issue regulations.
``Agencies shall prepare and submit a Statement of Energy Effects'' for many rulemakings, the president said in an executive order issued on May 21 after the task force also recommended it.
Abraham's schedule in the months leading up to the task force's report includes many contacts with energy industry heavyweights.
A phone call with Exxon-Mobil chairman Lee Raymond on April 25 was followed by a meeting with coal producers, senior Bush political adviser Karl Rove and a White House political aide. One of the agenda items for the meeting: ``Energy Politics.''
``Karl is a senior adviser to the president and provides him guidance and counsel on a number of issues,'' White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters. ``The president values his advice.''
At the time of the meeting, Rove had extensive stock holdings in energy companies -- including Enron, General Electric, Royal Dutch Shell and BP Amoco. Rove sold his stock in those and 19 other companies last June for $1.5 million, after receiving an exemption allowing him to defer payment of taxes on capital gains.
The coal mining industry gave over $3 million to Republicans in the 2000 election campaign plus $200,000 for Bush's inauguration, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a campaign watchdog group.
The Southern Co., the biggest provider of electric power in the Southeast, e-mailed Kelliher last March urging ``reform of EPA's new source review program'' then being used to force utilities and refineries to spend billions of dollars on anti-pollution equipment.
``I look forward to lunch on Tuesday'' and ``thanks for your consideration,'' a Southern Co. representative wrote Kelliher. ``After talking with you yesterday, the last thing you need is another issue to deal with.''
Earlier this month, EPA Administrator Christie Whitman suggested in testimony before Congress that utilities await the outcome of a suit challenging the ``New Source Review'' program before committing to cleanups.
Southern gave $1.8 million to Republicans from 1999 to the present, according to the Center for Public Integrity, compared with $630,000 to Democrats. Southern also provided $100,000 for Bush's inauguration.
Often, Abraham and his aides found themselves caught between competing Bush benefactors. For example, Kelliher met last April with representatives of the Green Mountain Energy Co., owned by wealthy Dallas entrepreneur Sam Wyly. Two years ago, Wyly spent $2.5 million on ads backing Bush and criticizing his rival for the Republican nomination, Arizona Sen. John McCain.
In a follow-up letter to the meeting, Green Mountain urged competition in the retail electricity market, a goal that would benefit Green Mountain and other companies including Enron in cracking regional monopolies held by traditional utilities like Southern.
``Green Mountain Energy Company greatly appreciated the opportunity to meet with you last week,'' a company vice president wrote Kelliher.
The Cheney task force ended up taking a middle ground, endorsing electricity competition but without a federal requirement that states open their retail power markets to competitors.
In a reference to Enron, Kelliher in an April 6 e-mail said the now bankrupt energy conglomerate had ``inspired'' legislation by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and that he was forwarding a draft of it.
Wyden's office and a former regulatory official on the West Coast say the e-mail is incorrect.
Ron Eachus, then the chairman of the Oregon Public Utility Commission, said he and colleagues in the regulatory field inspired the legislation two years ago. The legislation would have required more disclosure of electricity transactions -- a vital issue amid the West Coast electricity price spikes at the time. Eachus said Enron -- as a promoter of open competitive markets -- was a potential ally of the idea.
Wyden chief of staff Josh Kardon said the Consumer Federation of America and the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners were behind the bill.
Associated Press writers H. Josef Hebert and Sharon Theimer in Washington contributed to this report.