Lobbyists on either side of the issue of controlling air toxins are picking up force as the Senate nears a vote — expected Tuesday — on a controversial GOP plan to block Environmental Protection Agency rules, finalized last December, that require cuts in mercury and other air pollutants from power plants.
Update: The resolution was voted down 46-53.
The White House has threatened to veto the plan — sponsored by Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, ranking Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee — that environmental groups oppose and some utilities and energy lobbying coalitions strongly support (http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2012/06/19/fighting-protect-american-families-mercury-pollution).
First Street data shows that 516 firms on behalf of 804 clients have lobbied on clean air and water regulations or legislation in the current session of Congress. Those firms and clients include — among others — small and large power companies, agricultural organizations, manufacturers, universities, as well as environmental lobbying groups like the World Wildlife Fund Inc. and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
But in a report released Monday called, “The Price of Pollution Politics,” the NRDC has targeted eight specific power companies that it says have spent a combined $67 million on lobbying Congress between 2010 and the first quarter of 2012. The report details the lobbying expenses of each company and estimates the health effects and costs of the companies’ activities (http://www.nrdc.org/air/price-of-pollution-politics.asp). The NRDC timed its report to directly precede the scheduled vote on Inhofe’s proposed Senate Joint Resolution 37, which would block the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (http://www.epa.gov/ttn/atw/utility/utilitypg.html).
John Walke, NRDC’s clean air director, said during a conference call on Monday that the EPA had provided a timeline for compliance in the MATS rule which would “require rational planning by businessmen and businesswomen … but it appears these companies .. have decided it is in their interest to attack these public safeguards in Congress and in the courts.”
The “gang of eight,” as the NRDC referred to the companies in its report, “are putting profits above protecting kids,” said Pete Altman, climate and clean air campaign director for the NRDC. “We want to see these companies focus their money on cleaning up pollution rather than blocking, weakening and delaying” EPA regulations.
The following are the firms targeted in the NRDC report, the amount of lobbying expenditures the coalition estimated each firm spent from 2010 through the first quarter of 2012, and some facts about each firm’s connections and political activity based on First Street data:
- American Electric Power (AEP), based in Columbus, Ohio, spent $22 million on lobbying. In the first quarter of this year, it reported hiring five other firms to help it with its lobbying efforts. Its political action committee so far this election cycle has distributed more than $924,000 to candidates, including Inhofe, House Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland; Republicans Ed Whitfield of Kentucky, Jo Barton of Texas, and Fred Upton of Michigan, all members of the Energy and Commerce Committee. It also has donated to several other PACs, including the Nuclear Energy Institute Federal PAC and the Powerpac of the Edison Electric Institute.
- Southern Company,based in Atlanta, Ga, spent $18 million on lobbying. Among its lobbyists are:
- Stoney G. Burke, who worked for two years as a legislative assistant to former Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Tex., who served on the Appropriations Committee;
- H. Adam Lawrence, who served in the 1990s as a legislative assistant and counsel to Sen. John Breaux of Louisiana, a member of the committees on Commerce and Finance;
- Larry D. Nix, a former legislative aide to Sen. Jeff Session, R-Ala., a longtime member of the Committee on Environment and Public Works;
- Michael J. Riith, a former legislative director and district coordinator for Rep. Steven C. LaTourette, R-Ohio, a former member of the committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and Financial Services but who now serves on Appropriations; and
- Jeanne H. Wolak, a former legislative assistant and director for former Rep. James L. Chapman, D-Texas.
Southern Company during the past year also hired 16 other firms to help with its efforts, and it is affiliated with several PACs, including the Alabama Power Co. Employees Federal PAC and Georgia Power Company Federal PAC.
- Ameren, based in Collinsville, Illinois, spent $7.5 million. It has hired four other firms to help in its lobbying efforts, including the Gephardt Group Government Affairs, led by former House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt, a member of the First Street 30. The firm has a PAC that has donated more than $270,000 this election cycle to candidates that members of the Missouri and Illinois delegations.
- FirstEnergy Corp., based in Akron Ohio, spent $5.7 million lobbying, including $1.24 million in the first quarter of this year. Among its lobbyists are Martin Hall, former chief of staff for the Council on Environmental Quality and former staffer and deputy staff director for the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. FirstEnergy also has hired five other firms to help in its lobbying efforts and has a PAC that has distributed nearly $1.2 million this election cycle to a range of members, including House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio; Whitfield, who has been a vigorous defender of coal interests from his seat on the Energy and Commerce Committee; Democratic Reps. Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania and Bob Latta of Ohio, also members of Energy and Commerce; Rep. Betty Sutton, D-Ohio, member of the Natural Resources Committee; and Rep. Nick Rahall of West Virginia, ranking Democrat on the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
- DTE Energy, headquartered in Detroit, spent $3.6 million, including more than half a million dollars in the first quarter of this year. It also has hired two other lobbying firms — Bracy Tucker Brown & Valanzano and Bracewell and Giuliani, and has a PAC that has distributed $486,000 so far this election cycle, including to Upton, Michigan Republican Tim Walberg, and Michigan Democrat John D. Dingell, longtime member and former chairman of Energy and Commerce.
- Energy Future Holdings spent $7 million. While the company has its own lobbying force, it also has hired 13 other firms to help further its causes. Lobbyists reported for Energy Future include Joel Kaplan, an executive vice president who left earlier this year to go to Facebook to head that company’s Washington office. Kaplan worked in the George W. Bush White House from 2006 to 2008 as assistant to the president and deputy chief of staff for policy, from 2004 to 2005 as deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget.
- GenOn Energy Inc, based in Houston, spent $1 million on lobbying. It has hired three other firms in the past year and has a PAC that has distributed more than $200,000 so far this election cycle and has nearly $230,000 cash on hand. Beneficiaries of its contributions also include several members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, including Chairman Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico.
- PPL, based in Allentown, Pa., spent $1. 9 million on lobbying. According to FirstStreet data, it spent $610,000 just in the first quarter of 2012, a big jump from the last three quarters of 2011 when it spent about $250,000 each quarter. It has hired just two other firms, and has a PAC that has distributed more than $480,000 so far this election cycle to a long list of members of the House and Senate, primarily those on the energy and environment panels, including Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., and Whitfield, as well as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
These companies, except for GenOn, are members of various larger lobbying organizations, including the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) and the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council (ERCC). Those groups themselves have spent a bundle on lobbying as well:
- ACCCE spent more than $6.7 million between 2010 and the first quarter of 2012 lobbying Congress, including $380,000 in the first quarter of 2012 when it also paid Podesta Group Inc. another $90,000 in lobbying fees. Among ACCCE’s lobbyists are Patrick Cavanagh, a former legislative director for Pennsylvania Democrat Mike Doyle. The council also paid $90,000 in lobbying fees that quarter to the Podesta Group Inc., where two of the top First Street 30 lobbyists — former Hill staffer Randall Gerard and Anthony Podesta work.
- ERRC spent about $3 million between 2010 and the first quarter of 2012, including $340,000 in the first quarter of 2012. It focuses on Clean Air and Water Quality standards and Superfund issues. It hired Bracewell and Giuliani, LLP and Hunton and Williams.
The oil and gas industry has been the top contributor to Inhofe’s reelection campaign since 2007. Top individual contributors include: Koch Industries, Murray Energy and Devon Energy.
Senate Environment chair Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., meanwhile, has stood behind the EPA standards. And the NRDC has been joined by other environmental organizations, such as the National Wildlife Federation and the Environmental Defense Fund, that have been writing its members, testifying before Congress, blogging and tweeting to battle Inhofe’s proposal.