Opinion

Big Business And Big Government Hope They’ll Always Have Paris

Christopher Horner Senior Fellow, Competitive Enterprise Institute

A remarkable event occurred on Sunday at the Paris climate treaty negotiations. That is, it would have been remarkable in a time before corporate (including even media) sponsorship of treaty negotiations. That is, American utility companies’ principal trade association and political lobby.

According to Inside EPA, “officials with Edison Electric Institute (EEI), held a Dec. 5 side event at the U.N. talks with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy … [asserting that] EPA’s rule “really truly is an investment opportunity for us, and we plan to take full advantage of that,” said Brian Wolff, EEI’s executive vice president for public policy and external affairs.”

Inside EPA writes, “Wolff introduced McCarthy at the event, who welcomed the group’s support for the existing source performance standards (ESPS), also known as the Clean Power Plan. The rule is seen both domestically and internationally as the cornerstone of the United States’ GHG pledge made as part of the Paris negotiations.”

McCarthy “praised the group for taking a constructive approach toward the ESPS. “Generally people envision our relationship between EPA and EEI as akin to Jane Curtin and Dan Aykroyd on ‘Point/Counterpoint,’” McCarthy said, referring to the classic Saturday Night Live sketch in which two TV anchors make ad hominem attacks on each other. “That simply could be no further from truth at this point in time.””

At another point in time, when EPA was writing its rules — well, when green groups were writing them, with an EPA official using his Yahoo account (read on) — things were such that EPA had to haul EEI before the Agency to get its message across in the confines of a closed-door meeting.

As emails obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal, EPA Administrator McCarthy’s schedule reflects a two-hour “Meeting with EEI” on September 5, 2013, to discuss EPA’s global warming rules. It included ten utility executives. Among them was “Anthony Early,” joined by Wolff.

“Tony Earley,” CEO of California-based utility Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), was last seen at the Paris treaty talks with Administrator McCarthy and Pat Vincent, CEO of the New Mexico-based utility PNM Resources, at Sunday’s pep rally for EPA’s global warming rules.

Incidentally, one of the EPA appointees staffing the September meeting to get EPA’s “message” across was former green group lawyer Michael Goo. Other FOIA requests reveal that Goo, tasked with writing the framework of the GHG rules, did so on a non-official Yahoo email account, sharing options and language, before proposing the rule to EPA brass, with the Natural Resources defense Council, Sierra Club, and Clean Air Task Force.

This makes the rule the product of unlawful collusion with a preferred lobby, as one group, Energy & Environment Legal Institute, has already notified the federal court handling the matter.

Goo recently left government and signed his first big client just this month: utility behemoth, PG&E, one of Sunday’s presenters extolling the virtues of the rules its new lobbyist wrote with green pressure groups, obviously to PG&E’s satisfaction.

Two weeks after this sit-down, on September 20, 2013, we see McCarthy’s closest GHG advisor, former green group lawyer Joe Goffman, forwarding EEI’s “Statement on EPA’s proposed Greenhouse Gas New Performance Stands” to McCarthy. It came from Wolff, to Goffman, “Per our conversation.”

McCarthy responds, in full, to EEI’s favorable pronouncement, “Not so bad.” To which Goffman replies, “Not at all. September 5 message got through.” He then asks if McCarthy has had a chance to get through to EEI’s president Tom Kuhn. Thanks were clearly in order.

To express this gratitude, Goffman immediately replied to EEI’s public relations aide, Brian Wolf, who sent him the statement that same morning, “Per our conversation.” Goffman wrote, “Thanks, Brian. Appreciate it. Talk, again, soon.”

So utilities are largely (though with exception) sitting out the fight against rules putting in place the agenda President Obama vowed would “bankrupt” anyone who tried to build a new coal-fired power plant and cause electricity rates to “necessarily skyrocket,” in order to “finally make renewable energy the profitable kind of energy in America”.

But they even have come to Paris to assure the world about the misguided and sure-to-fail threat from the public’s elected representatives. According to Inside EPA, the utility executives then feted the ten Democratic Senators at a dinner, following the latter’s insistence to COP attendees that Congress is no threat to their shared agenda.

All of which is a large part of the message that EPA suggested that day as being the position most in line with EEI’s best interests. If we take President Obama at his word, however, it plainly isn’t in yours. Regardless, this is how governments and treaty negotiations sponsored by beneficiary industries now work.