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Cheney Chickens Out!

Vice President Cheney ducks wilderness rally

Vice President Dick Cheney slipped out the back way of the Salt Lake General Aviation airport, cynically avoiding scores of banner-waving, kazoo-playing wilderness activists who gathered there to greet him during Cheney’s recent visit to Utah.

Around 200 wilderness activists, mostly from Salt Lake, were there to tell the vice president that Utahns love America’s redrock deserts of southern Utah and that his energy proposal for America’s public lands puts those pristine places needlessly at risk.

Cheney earlier had said no to a formal meeting with representatives of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, who had written the vice president and asked for a meeting. In the letter SUWA suggested that a meeting with the environmental group would help blunt criticism the Bush administration has been receiving for leaving conservation groups out of his decision-making process.

“I don’t know any other way to say it. The Vice President chickened out,” said SUWA spokesman Mike Reberg, after watching the Cheney motorcade dart out an airport exit 3 blocks away. “He can’t justify his energy plan except as a political payoff to Big Oil and Gas, and on some level, he must feel personal embarrassment for the reckless course he has chosen for the environment. Why else would he sneak out the back? Everywhere this administration goes…from Utah to Florida, people are expressing the same concern as our wilderness activists expressed here today. Cheney can run, but he can’t hide,” said Reberg.

SUWA sought and received approval from Salt Lake City and the Secret Service to rally at the airport. Reberg offered an alternative explanation to one media report that said environmentalists were in the wrong spot.

“We had to tell the Secret Service where we would be and we had to stay in that spot,” said Reberg. “The vice president had the luxury of knowing where we were, and simply chose to avoid us. Had we chosen another spot, he would have avoided that too.”

Cheney’s airport action comes as evidence continues to mount that energy executives had unlimited access to the vice president during his development of the national energy policy, now being debated in Washington.

In a story on Sunday, August, 26, the Los Angeles Times reported that “throughout February and March, executives representing electricity, coal, natural gas and nuclear interests paraded quietly in small groups to a building in the White House compound, where the new administration’s energy policy was being written.

“Many of the executives at the White House meetings were generous donors to the Republican Party, and some of their key lobbyists were freshly hired from the Bush presidential campaign. They found a receptive task force. Among its ranks were three former energy industry executives and consultants. The task force also included a Bush agency head who was involved in the sensitive discussions while his wife took in thousands of dollars in fees from three electricity producers,” the Times story continues.