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Press Releases :: June 26, 2008

Committee to Receive Disputed FutureGen Documents from DOE Subpoena Meeting Ends with a Commitment for Delivery

 

(Washington, DC) – Today, the House Committee on Science and Technology’s Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight held a business meeting to discuss the Committee’s next action in obtaining documents regarding the FutureGen initiative from the Department of Energy (DOE). The Committee has been trying to get access to key DOE decision documents on FutureGen since April 2, 2008. The White House and Department of Energy pledged that the Committee would receive the remaining contested documents required to evaluate DOE's decision. This last-minute promise from White House Counsel to Subcommittee Chairman Brad Miller (D-NC) averted a subpoena being authorized for the materials.

 

 

 

The Department had refused to provide a handful of documents it felt involved White House privileges. This morning, White House Counsel allowed Committee staff to review the withheld materials. Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) and Subcommittee Chairman Miller determined that three of the documents withheld from the Committee were important enough to seek a subpoena authorization from the Members. These documents included:

  • a briefing memorandum for the White House National Economic Counsel (NEC) produced on December 13, 2007 by DOE staff that laid out the reasons for terminating the FutureGen project and restructuring the program;
  • talking points crafted by DOE staff for Secretary Bodman to participate in an NEC meeting on December 14, 2007; and
  • e-mail traffic between a White House staffer and Energy Deputy Secretary Clay Sell and Undersecretary Bud Albright regarding costs on the project.

The White House and Department pledged to provide these materials to the Committee within a matter of days. A fourth document that had been promised to the Committee prior to the session was not delivered by DOE in the form that had been promised the Chairmen. The Subcommittee Chairman and Members will insist on a proper version of the document being produced in the same timeframe as the other three documents.

"When you manage the people's money, as the Department of Energy has on FutureGen, you owe the people's representatives an explanation of what you do with that money. We have not had adequate answers on FutureGen decisions and the only way to get them is from documents held by the Department. I am pleased that the White House will provide the documents without a subpoena. If things fall apart it, and I hope they don't, we will be right back here in July," stated Miller.

"I have been very disappointed by the lack of cooperation out of the Department so far. The Department is rushing forward with their plan for a restructured FutureGen before they have even provided reasonable answers to our questions. We owe it to taxpayers to take a long, hard look at what DOE is proposing to do with a billion dollars or more," said Gordon.

Since 2003, the FutureGen project has served as the centerpiece of the Administration's efforts to provide serious clean coal technologies that would allow the U.S. and the world to use coal while combating global warming. For five years, the Department of Energy touted this effort, and their work with the FutureGen Industrial Alliance, as the most promising path towards energy from coal that would meet the challenge of reducing carbon emissions. Suddenly in January of this year, the Secretary of Energy announced that the Department was withdrawing from this project. This decision was taken without any consultation with this Committee, which is the Committee of jurisdiction in the House of Representatives. On April 2, 2008, Chairman Nick Lampson of the Energy and Environment Subcommittee sent the first Committee letter seeking decision documents from DOE. Since that time, the request has been joined by Chairmen Gordon and Miller and Ranking Members Bob Inglis and Jim Sensenbrenner.

 

 

 

The last time the Committee met to issue a subpoena was 1994; that meeting also ended without a subpoena being authorized because a deal was struck to provide the materials.

For more information or to view the FutureGen Subpoena Memo, please visit the Committee’s website.

 

 

 

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