Emails show billionaire Democrat conspiring with EPA to undermine agency critics
Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer's trade association coordinated with the EPA to debunk a federally commissioned study that was critical of the EPA's impact on the power grid.
Emails between the agency and the Advanced Energy Economy (AEE), a trade association of about 80 companies, show that there was an exchange of ideas on how to handle the critical report and lessen its impact.
AEE is one of three politically oriented groups run out of and coordinated by Steyer’s office. While his political and policy efforts garner more press attention, emails obtained by the Energy and Environment (E&E) Legal Institute through Freedom of Information Act requests reveal ways in which his coalition of green energy businesses also affects public policy.
Arvin Ganesan, AEE’s vice president for federal policy, emailed a handful of EPA and White House staffers in January 2015. “Several of us talked last month about rebutting” a November study from the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), a nonprofit tasked by the federal government with monitoring and developing standards for electricity reliability.
Critics of the EPA’s power plant regulations were already citing NERC’s study, which questioned the impact of EPA power plant regulations on electrical grid reliability and suggested they delay the rule’s implementation.
“NERC’s report underscores the growing reliability concerns with EPA’s unworkable plan,” Rep. Ed Whitfield (R., Ky.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s panel on energy and power, said of the report’s release.
Ganesan wanted to huddle with administration officials about an AEE-commissioned study to push back on the findings of the federally chartered nonprofit group. After the release of the study, hewrote, AEE would enlist member companies to pressure the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which oversees NERC, to discount its findings.
AEE, a trade association with more than 80 members, “will have [its rebuttal] amplified by our companies at the various FERC technical conferences,” Ganesan wrote.
After some back-and-forth, the EPA penciled him in for a Feb. 19 meeting with Joe Goffman, one of the lead architects of the agency’s power plant rule, and Janet McCabe, the acting chief of the EPA’s air quality division.
“All sounds very promising. We look forward to seeing the results,” Goffman wrote.
Just months before, Ganesan had been Goffman’s and McCabe’s colleague. He was the EPA deputy chief of staff for policy until October 2014, when he left to join AEE. “He will be a tremendous asset as we work with Congress and the Administration to create a prosperous future powered by secure, clean, affordable energy,” the group’s CEO said of the hire.
The coordination may be against administration policy, but it does not violate the law. But what we've seen over the years from the EPA is a reliance on private groups to assist them in attacking their critics. Congress has been looking into the relationship between the EPA and groups like the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council, wanting to know how environmental regulations are written with the private groups' assistance. Lawmakers want to determine if the groups involved cross the line from acting in an advisory capacity to coordinating issue advocacy with the EPA – a possible crime under federal law if the advocacy is determined to take place in the political arena.
But first, there would have to be an investigation by the administration and the Justice Department. Good luck with that.