As the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals hears challenges to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan, media should note that the Republican attorneys general suing the EPA have formed what a New York Times investigation described as an “unprecedented, secretive alliance” with the fossil fuel industry. Since the Times investigation was published, additional details of this alliance have come to light, including the revelation that fossil fuel companies paid for private meetings with Republican attorneys general shortly before the attorneys general sued the EPA to block the flagship climate change policy.
Republican Attorneys General Are Seeking To Block EPA’s Carbon Pollution Standards
GOP Attorneys General In West Virginia And Oklahoma Spearhead Lawsuits Against EPA Over Clean Power Plan. Since 2014, a group of mostly Republican attorneys general has filed several lawsuits against the Environmental Protection Agency in an effort to block the Clean Power Plan, which would place the first-ever federal limits on carbon pollution from power plants, a major contributor to climate change. Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt and West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey have reportedly led the coalition of attorneys general suing the EPA. [Petitions to District of Columbia Circuit Court, 7/31/14, 8/13/15, 2/19/16; Republican Attorneys General Association, accessed 9/21/16; NPR, 10/26/15; West Virginia Record, 10/23/15]
D.C. Circuit Court Of Appeals To Hear Attorneys General Challenges To Clean Power Plan On September 27. The full D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments on the legality of the Clean Power Plan on September 27 in an en banc review. The Washington Post’s Jonathan Adler explained that the en banc order will likely accelerate the review process. [Bloomberg BNA, 5/16/16; The Washington Post, 5/16/16]
Recent Investigation Shows Fossil Fuel Companies Paid For Private Meetings With GOP AGs
Bloomberg: Republican Attorneys General Association Received $250,000 From Major Coal Company 11 Days Before GOP AGs Sued EPA. Based on a review of documents unearthed by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), tax filings, and political campaign disclosures, Bloomberg reported on September 7:
Murray Energy Corp. made a $250,000 donation to the Republican Attorneys General Association [RAGA] last year and, in return, the coal mining company’s chief executive got a closed-door meeting with state prosecutors to discuss the Obama administration’s regulation of power plants.
Eleven days later, the attorneys general went to federal court to fight the rules that Murray Energy says could put the coal industry out of business.
The documents, obtained under state public records requests by a watchdog group, along with tax filings and political campaign disclosures reviewed by Bloomberg News, show how energy companies, Republican attorneys general and the association dedicated to re-electing them are aligned in a legal attack on President Barack Obama’s signature plan to combat carbon pollution from power plants.
Bloomberg further noted: “RAGA donors contributing at least $50,000 annually get four passes to group meetings, according to a membership packet, a chance to be a panelist during [RAGA] summits and an ‘opportunity to lead issue briefings with Republican attorneys general’ such as the one Murray attended.” According to CMD, major coal, oil, and gas power plant operator Southern Company also paid for a private meeting with the attorneys general during the August 2015 RAGA event. [Bloomberg, 9/7/16; CMD, 9/7/16; Southern Company, accessed 9/21/16]
Investigation Builds On Previous NY Times Report About Alliance Between AGs And Fossil Fuel Industry
NY Times: GOP Attorneys General Have Formed “Unprecedented, Secretive Alliance” With Energy Industry. An investigation by The New York Times published in December 2014 reported that Republican attorneys general had formed an “unprecedented, secretive alliance” with the fossil fuel industry to “push back against the Obama regulatory agenda.” The Times noted that attorneys general were filing lawsuits in support of corporate energy interests and receiving millions in campaign contributions from them, adding that “the collaboration is likely to grow”:
Attorneys general in at least a dozen states are working with energy companies and other corporate interests, which in turn are providing them with record amounts of money for their political campaigns, including at least $16 million this year.
They share a common philosophy about the reach of the federal government, but the companies also have billions of dollars at stake. And the collaboration is likely to grow: For the first time in modern American history, Republicans in January will control a majority -- 27 -- of attorneys general's offices.
Times Exposé Extensively Outlined Energy Industry Ties Of Pruitt And Morrisey. The Times investigation found that Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt's “ties with industry are clear,” particularly with Continental Resources CEO Harold Hamm, and that "[e]nergy industry lobbyists drafted letters for [Pruitt] to send to the E.P.A., the Interior Department, the Office of Management and Budget and even President Obama." The article further noted that under Pruitt's leadership, the Republican Attorneys General Association launched a campaign “in which attorneys general band together to operate like a large national law firm ... to back lawsuits and other challenges against the Obama administration on environmental issues” and other topics. It added that “the benefits have been clear” for Pruitt, who has been supported by “notably solicitous” lobbyists and company officials who have helped him “raise his profile.” The Times piece also prominently featured West Virginia’s Patrick Morrisey, pointing to his involvement with legislation that would help the state sue the Obama administration over power plant pollution standards as an illustrative example of how "[p]ersuading lawmakers to offer legislation has been another effective lobbying tool." [The New York Times, 12/6/14; Media Matters, 5/11/15]