by Craig Richardson
E&E Legal Executive Director
2015 has been a productive year for E&E Legal’s investigatory practice. Since April, E&E Legal has released four groundbreaking transparency reports that expose the hidden truth behind the ‘green movement’ and its allies in business, federal and state agencies, and nonprofit organizations like the Sierra Club. This follows on two reports in the fourth quarter of 2014. The report in April covered green spending on the 2014 election, and what the greens were attempting to buy, which was covered in the Spring 2015 E&E Legal Letters.
Report Exposing Coordination between Select Governors, the White House, and Tom Steyer’s Network of Advocacy Groups
On August 25, E&E Legal released its fourth transparency report in as many months, Private Interests & Public Office: Coordination Between Governors, the Obama White House and the Tom Steyer-“Founded and Funded” Network of Advocacy Groups to Advance the “Climate” Agenda. The report reveals a vast, coordinated, three-track effort by public officials and private interests to promote EPA’s expansive, overreaching and economically devastating greenhouse gas rules, specifically the section 111(d) regulation to shut the nation’s fleet of existing coalfired power plants, as well as the December Paris climate treaty President Obama is expected to sign to replace the Kyoto Protocol.
“Our report pulls the curtain back on a carefully planned and heavily funded ‘orchestration’ by individuals who have placed their personal interests ahead of the public interest,” said Chris Horner, E&E Legal’s Senior Legal Fellow and the report’s author.
The report is the product of open records requests over the course of a year at the federal level and nearly 30 offices in over a dozen states. The exposé contains appendices with over a hundred pages of source emails and attachments. It details a campaign to use public offices, in very close collaboration with wealthy benefactors, to advance and defend President Obama’s climate change regulatory and treaty agenda. This quasi-governmental campaign involves more than a dozen governors’ offices, with a parallel advocacy network and political operation funded and staffed by activists paid through ideologically, economically and politically motivated donors.
The report is timely given President Obama’s ongoing tour to promote the same EPA rules that these governors and “major environmental donors” scheme to promote in the correspondence released today. This includes a stop today at Harry Reid’s “clean energy economy” conference, curiously also sponsored by the same donors as those playing a leading role in today’s report.
Indeed these emails E&E Legal uncovered also show this campaign was developed with the early, active support and participation of the White House, which went beyond enthusiastically embracing the plan and follow up meetings and calls, to even directing the governors to what one green trade-press outlet calls a “shadowy group” affiliated with then-Chief of Staff John Podesta. The White House’s followup actions , as one governor’s aide praised them, were “moving dials”. Podesta also convinced the governors’ offices that their plan should be broken into separate, complementary pillars. The latest email obtained, from May of this year, shows the governors’ campaign arranging to coordinate with the State Department.
The scheme took shape at a meeting in the White House in December 2013, after which the Obama administration launched coordinated with the “core group” of activist Democrat governors to design one of what we see are three tracks to promote the climate agenda. One was run by the Steyer network and left-wing foundations. Another is run by governors with green groups, which are “useful” but whose “standard NGO shaming strategy might not deliver”. A third, run by the White House includes, in the words of a senior aide, “a few other tracks with private sector and unusual allies.”
Nearly every aspect of this effort, from the key early players to the funders and even the director the governors’ campaign hired — housed by some state’s taxpayers in the Hall of States in Washington, DC, overhead paid for by as-yet unknown means — has direct ties to a scandal involving “clean energy” donors and conflicts of interest, one which felled Oregon’s sitting governor earlier this year.
In what is possibly the most intriguing element, seemingly out of an episode of “House of Cards”, Democratic governors’ aides repeatedly reference a plan of “creative engagement” to “compel” certain electric utilities — those subject to their jurisdiction whose businesses cross lines into states led by Republicans — to bring “red state” governors around to support the EPA rules: “
The “core group” of governors also coordinated with Democratic mega-donor Tom Steyer and his managing partner, Ted White, who directed them to “affiliated groups that we founded and fund (such as NextGen Climate Action, or Next Generation, or AEE [Advanced Energy Economy]” . Those groups in turn underwrote consultants and activists to hand-hold governors through implementing the Obama EPA’s rules, keeping them from the clutches of the “just say no” states.
This core group soon expanded to more than a dozen states, coast-to- coast, embracing a four-point plan which they soon called the Governor’s Climate Compact or GCC, which was ultimately rebranded as the Governors’ Climate Accord or GCA and now goes by the name of the Governors Clean Energy Initiative (none of which have any internet footprint whatsoever, and begging the question who is indeed paying for its director and other overhead). The emails do reflect an awareness that the agenda’s lack of popularity in the “flyover states” necessitated a flexible timeline and keeping some offices’ involvement quiet, specifically citing elections as a concern.
Report on collusion between the EPA and green pressure groups in writing Green House Gas Rules
As the EPA dropped its new Green House Gas, E&E Legal released a devastating report detailing how the EPA relied extensively and secretely with green advocacy groups in developing the rules. On July 30, E&E Legal released: Back to Square One: Unlawful Collusion with Green Pressure Groups Should Doom U.S. EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Regulation. In addition, E&E Legal also released a short video that accompanied the report.
The report, which is based on e-mails and other documents obtained under numerous Freedom of Information (FOIA) requests and litigation, details illegal activities by EPA staff, colluding with certain environmental lobbyists to draft EPA’s greenhouse gas (GHG) rules behind the scenes, outside of public view, and to the exclusion of other parties. More importantly, it clearly shows that EPA must start anew if it wishes to regulate GHGs.
With EPA’s GHG rules going final any day, it is critical to inform the public of the emails detailed in this report for what they show about how EPA has developed these costly public policies with select, ideologically aligned outside interests, and its continuing efforts to obscure and even hide the content of discussions with those same lobbyists.
“E&E Legal has obtained proof that EPA’s GHG rules are the product of unlawful collusion and are themselves therefore unlawful,” said E&E Legal Senior Legal Fellow Chris Horner and author the report. “Congress or the courts — or EPA, in a moment of rationality — should stop these rules from taking effect before the (intended) anticipatory harms of a sham rulemaking are imposed upon millions of Americans, without years of delay and devastation before the ultimately illegal agency rulemaking is overturned.”
EPA is a regulatory agency tasked with protecting the environment. EPA can regulate greenhouse gases thanks to the Supreme Court’s Massachusetts v. EPA decision. It is not compelled to do so, and it remains prohibited under the law from regulating with an “unalterably closed mind”, for the purposes of completing a “naked transfer of wealth”, or to do the bidding of ideologically aligned pressure groups.
“This pattern of conducting official business in secret and outside of the legal parameters is unfortunately a hallmark of this Administration,” said E&E Legal Executive Director Craig Richardson. “In the case of the EPA, green groups led by the Sierra Club and NRDC set up shop at the EPA, even before Obama took office, with a plan to eliminate the U.S.’s most abundant source of electricity, coal-fired power plants. Part of this was to shift the public’s wealth to renewable energy, where the large benefactors of these same green groups are now poised to make significant money.”
The report comes as President Obama prepares to announce these rules next week, and follows an E&E Legal interim report released last September which also showed that EPA was working with outside green lobby groups on a common regulatory agenda, often with deliberate secretiveness and unlawfully. Since the 2014 report, E&E Legal has pried many hundreds of relevant emails out of EPA in several requests and lawsuits. The record is not complete, of course, but reflects only those records responsive to E&E Legal’s search terms and that EPA, or its now-departed activist-staffers, decided to produce. EPA continues to improperly withhold certain obviously important information with no conceivable legal justification.
Report on Sierra Club’s Billionaire Donors
As the old adage goes, “follow the money.” In its July 9th report, Big Donors…Big Conflicts; How Wealthy Donors Use the Sierra Club to Push Their Agenda, that’s exactly what E&E Legal did.
Big Donors…Big Conflicts was a follow-on report to one E&E Legal produced last fall on the Sierra Club Foundation, which showed how eight of the Foundation’s 18 directors own or operate organizations that directly benefit from its Beyond Coal campaign, the Sierra Club Foundation’s single most expensive program. This type of “self-dealing” is a violation of IRS; a clear case of a private individual receiving “goods and services” from the Sierra Club to their direct and personal benefit. In response, E&E Legal filed a referral with the IRS pointing this out. In this report, E&E Legal documents similar benefits accruing to some of Sierra Club’s largest donors and, specifically, how they appear to use the Sierra Club for market manipulation. Such self-dealing by donors is prohibited by the IRS.
“What is apparent from this latest report is that very wealthy individuals and family foundations use the Sierra Club as hired guns to beat up the coal industry, and to push renewable energy while these same individuals stand to gain significantly from this market manipulation,” said E&E Legal General Counsel David Schnare. “This is a blatant violation of the IRS tax laws, and we will be filing a referral with the tax agency reporting several of the Sierra Club’s largest donors as we did last fall regarding the eight Sierra Club Foundation directors who engaged in similar activities.”
What is clear from examining the large contributors to the Sierra Club is that these donors seek to use the Sierra Club to manipulate government policies in order to irrevocably alter the world’s energy portfolio in a manner that benefits the donors and their businesses. This strategy appears to have been put in place in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The Energy Foundation, for example, was launched in 1991 by three extremely wealthy family foundations, including the Rockefeller Foundation.
“Looking back to the late 1980s, what emerges is that these influential elites, or ‘one-percenters,’ dedicated themselves to sounding alarms about ‘global warming,’ which morphed into ‘climate change’ as conditions demanded,” said Craig Richardson, E&E Legal Executive Director and author of the report. “Huge money followed from some of this country’s largest and most influential foundations, much of which ended up in the hands of groups like the Sierra Club.”
Other billionaires, all large contributors to the Sierra Club and including Michael Bloomberg, Nathaniel Simons, and Roger Sant, jumped into the fray. Their strategy is simple. Phase I targeted coal as the threat that must be arrested, claiming anthropogenic C02 emissions are the root cause of ‘climate change’ and threaten a catastrophic future, thus opening the door to non-coal technologies in which they have invested; and to create movement in the markets that these men can manipulate to their own hedge fund benefit. The group’s unprecedented contributions allowed them to engage in one of the most intense and thorough public relations, political, and grassroots assaults ever waged.
Phase II of their campaign was a heavy push on government policies promoting renewable energy – primarily wind and solar. These intermittent energy sources are not an alternative to what is known as “dispatchable” energy sources such as coal and natural gas-based electricity and thus cannot replace the older, cheaper coal and gas generation. In 2009, this second phase accelerated in earnest with the Obama Administration’s policies to prop up renewable interests, benefiting these donors, while disabling coal through regulatory policy. Similarly, states pushed renewable energy rules requiring a percentage of a state’s consumption be composed of wind and solar.
In addition to serving the obvious financial and generally ideological interests of Sierra’s donors, the Sierra Club’s policies also serve donors who succor population control. This includes the family foundation of William Hewlett, a Sierra Club supporter, which is dedicated to population control and view environmental issues as a means to curb and ultimately reduce human involvement in the world as well. This, of course, is nothing short of a war on the poor, the antithesis of a war on poverty.
“This report helps answer the mystery of why the Sierra Club abandoned the mission of its founder John Muir, which was to protect this country’s most sacred nature resources,” noted Richardson. “When you see the hundreds of millions of dollars pumped through the Sierra Club for its war on coal – an effort that clearly benefits the very same people who are donating the money – it’s clear the Sierra Club is now just a mercenary force beholden to the highest bidder.”
Big Donors…Big Conflict was released through E&E Legal’s special project, Sierra Club Unearthed, an investigatory portal aimed at revealing the extent to which a small group of national hacks have hijacked the Sierra Club and have used it for their own financial and political purposes.