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Supreme Court accepts Cheney appeal on energy taskforce

From Bill Mears
CNN Washington Bureau

Vice President Dick Cheney
Vice President Dick Cheney

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Dick Cheney
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Supreme Court has agreed to hear Vice President Dick Cheney's challenge to a court ruling that would force him to disclose details of meetings between his energy policy task force and the industry.

The high court Monday accepted Cheney's appeal and will hear the case sometime after February, with a ruling expected in June.

Cheney has balked at turning over documents relating to the controversial energy policy task force that he headed for the Bush administration. A lawsuit claims he had made improper contacts with the energy industry when developing government policy.

Cheney is appealing a federal court's order that he release internal files of the task force. The White House has argued the courts and Congress have no business making inquiries, even limited ones, into the decision-making power of federal agencies and offices. Cheney has said executive power needs to be increased in such confidentiality cases.

The lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch, a private watchdog group, and the Sierra Club, an environmental organization, seeks to gather records related to the task force.

Attorneys for the groups say the public deserves to know whether lobbyists for energy industry helped craft the U.S. government's longterm energy policy.

Cheney's task force met throughout the first year of the Bush administration in 2001, and developed a report recommending opening up more federal land to oil, natural gas and coal development.

That includes the remote Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northeast Alaska. Such development has become a political rallying point by both environmentalists and pro-energy forces.

The energy bill crafted by the administration remains stalled in Congress.

Before becoming vice-president, Cheney headed Haliburton, one the world's largest energy development companies. Haliburton last week was in the news on allegations it may have overcharged for activities it was hired to perform as part of the Iraq reconstruction.

The case is Cheney v. U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (03-0475).

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