Searching for Southern Co.

Attorneys at the Natural Resources Defense Council aren't content with the 11,000 documents on the president's energy plan that the U.S. Department of Energy reluctantly handed over to them last Wednesday.

After 11 months of legal wrangling with the White House, the NRDC won a victory when a court ordered the DOE to fork over e-mails, memos and other documents involved in the formulation of the Bush administration's energy plan. When the plan was released in May 2001, many environmental groups, including the NRDC, complained that the energy industry had too much input, and environmentalists didn't have enough.

The first batch of documents did contain an e-mailed suggestion that a Southern Co. lobbyist sent to an Energy Department official that was eventually inserted into the energy plan. (Two different Southern Co. officials gave three different newspapers the line about how they're flattered that people think Southern Co. has so much influence in Washington, which is the same thing the vice president of environmental affairs for Georgia Power, a Southern subsidiary, told CL when we first reported that the company was going all out to use the energy plan to weaken the Clean Air Act.)

"Big energy companies all but held the pencil for the White House task force as government officials wrote a plan calling for billion of dollars in corporate subsidies and the wholesale elimination of key health and environmental safeguards," NRDC President John Adams said when the documents were released March 27.

But the documents were heavily censored and now NRDC lawyers are asking the courts to force the Energy Department to hand over 15,000 documents before they're censored.

"Based on the behavior of the Energy Department, we're asking the courts to expedite the schedule," says NRDC staff attorney David McIntosh.??

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