In 2012, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Sierra Club environmental group “collaborated” in writing a press release for Sen. Jeanne Shaheen on her participation in a “Clean Energy Solutions Roundtable” featuring Club and EPA officials, according to a new report by a conservative think-tank.
The Energy and Environmental Legal Institute made the disclosure as part of a comprehensive report alleging broad “improper collusion between environmental pressure groups and the Environmental Protection Agency.” The group based the report on emails and other information obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests to the EPA.
The Energy and Environmental Legal Institute is a 501c-3 nonprofit, reportedly funded in part by the oil industry and the Koch foundations. It has filed FOIA requests and legal actions involving the EPA and other agencies at the state and local level under its current name and its former name, the American Traditions Institute.
In a recent high-profile case, the group sued the University of Virginia seeking the emails of a climate scientist in an effort to find out if the scientists manipulated climate-change data to receive government grants. But in July of this year, the Virginia Supreme Court threw out the lawsuit against the university and scientist Michael Mann, calling it “frivolous,” and ordered the institute to pay $250 in damages.
In a broad conclusion of its report released today, EELI alleges, “The Obama EPA claims to be pursuing a common-sense agenda, but its own emails reveal a clear understanding, internally and with its allies, that its agenda is ideological and that it is in fact pursuing candidate Obama’s vow to ‘bankrupt’ coal. Emails prove this agenda is assisted both in its big picture and in detail by pressure groups from which EPA obtained many senior staff. The public shift to more moderate positions was purely rhetorical, in response to political pressures.
“Contrary to candidate Obama’s promise to run the ‘most transparent administration in history,’ free of conflicts of interest, documents reveal that various environmentalist pressure groups with extreme agendas have unprecedented access to and influence upon their former colleagues and ideological soul mates who are now EPA officials. EPA serves as an extension of these groups and neither EPA nor the groups recognize any distinction between them.”
Regarding Shaheen, the report alleges, “EPA colludes with green pressure group allies, in facially improper ways, involving members of Congress. For example, the EPA and the Sierra Club collaborated in writing a public relations document for Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), for her participation in a ‘Carbon Roundtable’ event also including various EPA officials and Sierra Club. EPA jointly wrote Sen. Shaheen’s statement with Catherine Corkery, who lobbies and works on public relations for the New Hampshire Sierra Club.”
The report says that with the EPA’s regional administrator, Curt Spaulding, scheduled to speak at the roundtable, the Sierra Club of New Hampshire “wanted to coordinate their messages to ensure compatibility with Sierra Club’s goals. The end result of this collusion is that Sierra Club helped to write press for Sen. Shaheen’s office at the behest of the EPA.
“EPA had also responded to Corkery about getting ‘our press staff’ involved in ensuring the release for Sen. Shaheen to be on the same page for their shared purpose,” the report contends.
The “Clean Energy Solutions Roundtable” was held at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics in early April 2012, featuring Shaheen and Spalding.
According to news reports at the time, Spalding discussed the Carbon Pollution Standard for Future Power Plants, which the EPA had just proposed previously. The standard placed limits on the levels of carbon dioxide that can be emitted at power plants built in the future.
To back up its allegations that there was coordination among the EPA, Sierra Club and Shaheen’s office, EELI produces several emails about the roundtable.
In a March 14, 2012 email contained in the report, New Hampshire Sierra Club official Corkery writes to EPA official Nancy Grantham, “We are working with Sen Shaheen’s office to have a round table discussion about carbon solutions such as energy savings programs and projects that will help NH move ahead and would like for Mr Spalding to talk about the carbon ruling that requires the EPA to regulate carbon. We want the context to be the good work of the EPA and the benefits: jobs and pollution reductions. The Senator is working on her schedule to be the key note speaker. She will talk about the concerns of continuing without a carbon rule and the opportunities NH would be able to explore with one, highlighting local businesses addressing the issues.
“It would be a great venue for Mr. Spalding to highlight the meaningful environmental and health improvements to American lives with the introduction of the Clean Air Act as well as the mission of the EPA to continue doing so.
“April 4 and 5th are prospective dates at this time but at this point there is some flexibility. Please let me know immediately what more you need.”
In an April 3 email, contained in the report, Corkery writes to an EPA official, “I do not have the quotation for the Senator yet and she will have edits they said BUT could you look this over and send a quotation for CS (Curt Spalding)?”
An EPA official then writes to colleagues at the EPA, “Senator Shaheen’s office is putting out a PR (press release) in support of a Carbon Roundtable event. They would like (and Curt would like to provide) a quote.”
For the EELI press release on the report, click here.
For the full report, click here. The reference to Shaheen, the Sierra Club and the EPA is on page 79.