Washington A federal judge on Monday rebuffed congressional efforts to learn about meetings that Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force had with industry executives and lobbyists while formulating the Bush administration's energy plan.
In dismissing the lawsuit by the investigative arm of Congress, U.S. District Judge John Bates said only seven senators and congressmen had expressed support for the efforts to get the information.
The lawsuit by Comptroller General David Walker was an unprecedented act that raised serious separation-of-powers issues and "no court has ever before granted what the comptroller general seeks," Bates wrote.
"This case, in which neither a House of Congress nor any congressional committee has issued a subpoena for the disputed information or authorized this suit, is not the setting for such unprecedented judicial action," the judge wrote.
Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., called it "regrettable, but not surprising, that a newly appointed federal judge chose to look the other way." Bates was appointed by President Bush.
The Cheney energy plan issued in the spring of 2001 called for expanded oil and gas drilling on public land and eased regulatory barriers to new nuclear power plants. The plan included steps to increase conservation and encourage the use of alternative fuels as well as to protect the environment.
The suit asked the court to require Cheney to reveal who attended the energy tax force meetings, with whom the task force met to develop its recommendations, how it determined whom to invite and how much it cost to develop the policy.
Aside from a few details that the Bush administration revealed amid the collapse of Enron Corp., the White House has refused to identify the people the Cheney task force met with. Enron representatives met six times with the vice president or his aides. Enron has been Bush's biggest campaign donor over the years.