Obama’s green pres­sure tac­tics ex­posed Gover­nors, cli­mate ac­tivists plot against op­po­nents, records show

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY BEN WOLF­GANG AND STEPHEN DI­NAN

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, top cli­mate change cru­saders and gover­nors from across the coun­try have en­gaged in a highly co­or­di­nated ef­fort to pub­licly sell the pres­i­dent’s green agenda and put pri­vate pres­sure on op­po­nents, ac­cord­ing to newly re­leased emails and other records ob­tained through Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act re­quests.

The strik­ing re­port from the Energy and En­vi­ron­ment Le­gal In­sti­tute’s Christo­pher Horner — who first re­vealed Lisa P. Jack­son’s use of pri­vate email ac­counts and aliases while at the helm of the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency — sheds new light on the level of co­op­er­a­tion among top White House of­fi­cials, bil­lion­aire and cli­mate change ac­tivist Tom Steyer, Vir­ginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Ken­tucky Gov. Steve Bes­hear and other back­ers of Mr. Obama’s global warm­ing reg­u­la­tions, in­clud­ing re­stric­tions on car­bon pol­lu­tion from power plants.

The doc­u­ments show fre­quent com­mu­ni­ca­tion and meet­ings among Demo­cratic of­fi­cials at the state and fed­eral lev­els and, among other en­vi­ron­men­tal groups, rep­re­sen­ta­tives of NextGen Cli­mate, a lead­ing cli­mate change ad­vo­cacy group led by Mr. Steyer.

The emails show Rohan Pa­tel, a spe­cial as­sis­tant to the pres­i­dent and the White House deputy di­rec­tor of in­ter­gov­ern­men­tal af­fairs, as a li­ai­son be­tween the ad­min­is­tra­tion and state of­fi­cials and a key fig­ure in de­vel­op­ing the broader plan to sell Mr. Obama’s cli­mate pro­pos­als.

The re­port was re­leased last week, just days be­fore Mr. Obama trav­eled to Alaska to pro­mote his en­vi­ron­men­tal agenda. The pres­i­dent will re­main in Alaska through Wed­nes­day. He de­liv­ered a speech Mon­day evening on the threats posed by cli­mate change.

Specif­i­cally, the re­port lays out in de­tail how en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivists and public of­fi­cials co­or­di­nated on how best to drum up sup­port for Mr. Obama’s cli­mate agenda.

The strat­egy cen­tered on, among other things, Demo­cratic gover­nors’ of­fices en­list­ing util­ity com­pa­nies to put pres­sure on Repub­li­can gover­nors who are ve­he­mently op­posed to Mr. Obama’s en­vi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tions.

“The emails cite one tac­tic seem­ingly lifted from an episode of ‘House of Cards’: Demo­cratic gover­nors will ‘cre­atively en­gage’ elec­tric util­i­ties un­der their ju­ris­dic­tion to bring Repub­li­can gover­nors on board, in­stead of us­ing green groups to pres­sure Repub­li­cans,” the re­port reads in part.

Demo­cratic gover­nors — in­clud­ing Mr. McAuliffe, Mr. Bes­hear and for­mer Ore­gon Gov. John Kitzhaber — would pri­vately pres­sure util­i­ties whose ju­ris­dic­tions crossed state lines into Repub­li­can-con­trolled states.

At the same time, lead­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal groups would work with the White House and state Demo­cratic lead­ers to roll out a com­pre­hen­sive public re­la­tions strat­egy and oth­er­wise gen­er­ate sup­port for Mr. Obama’s cli­mate ini­tia­tives.

Mr. Pa­tel re­ferred all ques­tions to the White House press of­fice, which did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment. NextGen also did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

Crit­ics say the lengthy re­port is more proof that the Demo­cratic Party and the en­vi­ron­men­tal move­ment es­sen­tially func­tion as one en­tity with a shared goal of forc­ing fos­sil fu­els out of the U.S. energy mix. They also point out that sig­nif­i­cant tax­payer money ap­par­ently is be­ing used to pro­mote Mr. Obama’s cli­mate goals.

“The ex­tent of it is pretty im­pres­sive — the idea that you could get a bunch of grown peo­ple from all vary­ing per­spec­tives point­ing in the same di­rec­tion is an im­pres­sive tes­ta­ment to the uni­for­mity of thought among Democrats,” said Michael McKenna, a Repub­li­can strate­gist and pres­i­dent of the lob­by­ing firm MWR Strate­gies. “It’s pretty hard con­fir­ma­tion of some­thing we al­ready knew … that the mod­ern-day Demo­cratic Party is hand­maiden to the en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists.”

The emails also re­veal a “core group” of of­fi­cials in gover­nors’ of­fices across the coun­try who would take part in “weekly gover­nors energy and cli­mate com­mit­ment con­ver­sa­tion.”

The group in­cludes Mr. Bes­hear, the Ken­tucky gover­nor whose state is one of the na­tion’s largest coal pro­duc­ers. Pub­licly, he re­mains op­posed to the EPA’s car­bon emis­sions reg­u­la­tions and other pieces of Mr. Obama’s agenda.

“Through­out his time in of­fice, Gov. Bes­hear has re­mained stead­fast in his sup­port for Ken­tucky’s im­por­tant coal and man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­tries, and the af­ford­able energy and good jobs they pro­vide the com­mon­wealth and the na­tion. That’s why he has strongly op­posed fed­eral reg­u­la­tions for Ken­tucky that are dis­as­trous, both for our de­clin­ing coal econ­omy and for our very im­por­tant man­u­fac­tur­ing econ­omy,” said Terry Se­bas­tian, Mr. Bes­hear’s spokesman.

The of­fice of Mr. McAuliffe, who also ap­pears to have been a mem­ber of the core group and who ben­e­fited from Mr. Steyer’s fi­nan­cial sup­port dur­ing his 2013 elec­tion cam­paign, did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment.

The re­port says some ques­tions about the true depth of the co­or­di­na­tion re­main unan­swered be­cause of stonewalling from gover­nors’ of­fices.

“Fur­ther ques­tions arise about why so many public of­fi­cials are de­vot­ing so much of their time to work­ing with ‘ma­jor en­vi­ron­men­tal donors,’ and oth­er­wise, on a scheme they rec­og­nize the vot­ers would re­ject,” the study reads in part. “Sim­i­larly, how much tax­payer money is be­ing ded­i­cated to this cam­paign and what level of pri­vate un­der­writ­ing is ad­vanc­ing the use of public of­fices this way. Ul­ti­mately, the ques­tions are who is pay­ing for, and who is ben­e­fit­ing from, all of this. The an­swer to the lat­ter cer­tainly isn’t the Amer­i­can peo­ple.”

Mean­while, Mr. Obama con­tin­ues his laser­like fo­cus on cli­mate change. The pres­i­dent vowed to make global warm­ing a cen­ter­piece of his sec­ond-term agenda, and his EPA over the past sev­eral years has rolled out a host of reg­u­la­tions lim­it­ing emis­sions from au­to­mo­biles, power plants, air­planes, oil-and-gas drilling sites and even garbage dumps.

“The point is that cli­mate change is no longer some far off prob­lem. It is hap­pen­ing here. It is hap­pen­ing now,” Mr. Obama said Mon­day night at a cli­mate-change con­fer­ence in An­chor­age.

“Cli­mate change is al­ready dis­rupt­ing our agri­cul­ture and ecosys­tems, our wa­ter and food sup­plies, our energy, our in­fra­struc­ture, hu­man health, hu­man safety, now, to­day. And cli­mate change is a trend that af­fects all trends — eco­nomic trends, se­cu­rity trends. Ev­ery­thing will be im­pacted and it be­comes more dra­matic with each pass­ing year. Al­ready it’s chang­ing the way Alaskans live … We know that hu­man ac­tiv­ity is chang­ing the cli­mate. That is be­yond dis­pute. Ev­ery­thing else is pol­i­tics, if peo­ple are deny­ing the facts of cli­mate change,” he said.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Vir­ginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe is among the Democrats who would pres­sure util­i­ties whose ju­ris­dic­tions crossed state lines into Repub­li­can-con­trolled states, whose gover­nors are ve­he­mently op­posed to Mr. Obama’s en­vi­ron­men­tal agenda.

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