Administration Fights Subpoena on Energy Records

The Bush administration is asking a federal judge to bar questioning of a former top aide on Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force.

In a lawsuit seeking information about the Cheney panel's meetings, the Natural Resources Defense Council subpoenaed Andrew Lundquist, who met with business executives and lobbyists in drafting the pro-industry White House plan.

Calling the subpoena "wholly inappropriate," the Justice Department said Thursday in court papers that Lundquist, the task force's former executive director, doesn't have any information relevant to NRDC's lawsuit against the government.

It is too soon in the case to question him, said the Justice Department, which plans to ask for dismissal of NRDC's lawsuit before U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler.

NRDC is suing the Energy Department, which had a key role in formulating the Cheney plan. Lundquist was an Energy Department employee detailed to the Cheney task force.

"The administration continues to deny the public information about what their government is doing," said NRDC attorney Sharon Buccino.

"Lundquist holds a critical missing piece of the puzzle about how the Bush energy plan was developed," said Buccino.

In turning over documents to NRDC in the lawsuit, the Energy Department produced nothing from Lundquist or other Energy Department employees who went with him to the Cheney task force.

NRDC wants to ask Lundquist about what kinds of records he kept and where they are now.

Cheney's task force, which has disbanded last year, called for increasing the nation's supply of energy through expanded oil and gas drilling on public land and rejuvenating nuclear power.

Lundquist recently left the government, but is being represented by the Justice Department in the NRDC lawsuit.