Bush Energy Order Wording Mirrors Oil Lobby's Proposal

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Bush Energy Order Wording Mirrors Oil Lobby's Proposal

Directive targeted regulations with "adverse effects"

By Dana Milbank
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 28, 2002; Page A27

President Bush last year issued an order on energy policy that closely followed a proposed draft given to the administration two months earlier by oil lobbyists, according to documents released by the Energy Department under a court order.

An official from the American Petroleum Institute sent an e-mail on March 20, 2001, to Joseph Kelliher, then a Department of Energy policy adviser, proposing language for a Bush policy on energy regulations. API called it "a suggested executive order to ensure that energy implications are considered and acted on in rule-makings and other executive actions."

The lobby group recommended a directive requiring agencies to consider whether environmental or other regulations would cause "inordinate complications in energy production and supply." On May 18, Bush issued Executive Order 13211, directing agencies to assess whether regulations would have "any adverse effects on energy supply, distribution or use."

The API proposal defines the order to apply to "any substantive action by an agency that promulgates or is expected to lead to the promulgation of a rule, regulation or policy, including, but not limited to, notices of inquiry, advance notices of proposed rule-making, notices of proposed rule-making, and guidance documents."

The Bush executive order states that it applies to "any action by an agency . . . that promulgates or is expected to lead to the promulgation of a final rule or regulation, including notices of inquiry, advance notices of proposed rule-making, and notices of proposed rule-making."

The similarity was identified yesterday by the Natural Resources Defense Council, one of the groups that forced Monday's disclosure of Energy Department documents. The NRDC said the wording was unusually expansive. "The oil companies seem to be putting words in our president's mouth," said Sharon Buccino, senior attorney for the NRDC.

White House spokeswoman Anne Womack said the task force got suggestions from a wide range of interests. "When ideas were submitted, we took a look at them, and if they had merit they were incorporated in part," she said.

Red Cavaney, president of the American Petroleum Institute, said his organization recommended the executive order and sent it unsolicited. He said the charge that "the administration lifted ours is probably a little overstating the case." Cavaney said that API wanted the order to apply retroactively, which the Bush order did not do.

The claim that industry lobbyists helped to shape part of the administration's energy policy came as Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.), chairman of the Governmental Affairs Committee, sent a letter to White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. yesterday asking for details of all communications and meetings involving the task force between Enron Corp. and officials at the White House and eight federal agencies.

Womack said the administration was reviewing the request but added, "The American people are pretty tired of open-ended fishing expeditions."

The request does not have the legal force of a subpoena, although Lieberman's committee has issued subpoenas to Enron, the collapsed energy company, about its contacts with the White House. Lieberman, who seeks documents dating back to 1992, had announced the letter last week. He set an April 12 deadline.

In part to obtain a fuller account of Enron's involvement with the energy task force, the NRDC yesterday filed a motion seeking to hold the Energy Department in contempt of court for providing incomplete information under last month's order. Energy turned over 11,000 of 26,000 relevant pages and deleted information from many of the documents it did release.

Buccino said Enron was "the dog that didn't bark" because it did not appear in the documents. (perhaps because Enron does appear in the 15,000 pages that have not been turned over, or any reference to Enron has been "whited out". He expects anyone to fall for this stupid logic?)

The Energy Department has said officials spoke to Enron representatives on other subjects.

The NRDC also pointed to a March 23 e-mail from Southern Co. to Kelliher. An attached document said national energy policy should include "Reform of EPA's New Source Review Program," regulations that impose tighter limits on emissions from retooled power plants. Southern complained that the Environmental Protection Agency's interpretation of the statute, part of the Clean Air Act, "discourages any repair or replacement project" that could make a power plant operate longer.

2002 The Washington Post Company

-- Cherri (jessam5@home.com), March 28, 2002

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