Private emails, documents reveal year-long behind-the-scenes collusion between GOP state officials, fossil fuel lobbyists to undermine Obama Admin. climate measure
Fossil fuel giants Murray Energy and Southern Company paid for meetings with Republican attorneys general to discuss their opposition to the Clean Power Plan less than two weeks before the same GOP officials petitioned federal courts to block the Obama administration’s signature climate proposal, according to private emails (see below) from state attorneys general obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy. The meetings took place at an August 2015 summit hosted by the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) in West Virginia, where attendees were offered the opportunity to meet with GOP attorneys general in exchange for financial donations to help reelect the Republican state prosecutors.
Confidential documents also reveal that some of the GOP attorneys general again discussed “the future of the fight to stop the Clean Power Plan” at a meeting of the Republican Attorneys General Association’s 501(c)(4) organization, the Rule of Law Defense Fund, this past April.
The previously unknown meetings and financial donations – revealed in copies of conference materials, most stamped “confidential,” that were emailed to state attorneys general who attended the summit and obtained by CMD through public records requests – offer the first look at the behind-the-scenes coordination between GOP attorneys general and the fossil fuel industry to undermine the implementation of the Clean Power Plan.
“State attorneys general are supposed to enforce the law and serve the public interest, but instead these Republican officials have hung a ‘For Sale’ sale on their door, and the fossil fuel industry proved to be the highest bidder,” said Nick Surgey, Research Director at the Center for Media and Democracy, a national watchdog group. “It’s no coincidence that GOP attorneys general have mounted an aggressive fight alongside the fossil fuel industry to block the Clean Power Plan – that appears to be exactly what the industry paid for. Together, these documents reveal a sustained pattern of collusion between the fossil fuel industry and the Republican attorneys general on climate change obstructionism.”
In addition to the private briefings, the RAGA conference also included a panel presentation entitled “The Dangerous Consequences of the Clean Power Plan & Other EPA Rules,” featuring Mike Duncan, President of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) and Geoffrey Barnes, Counsel at Murray Energy, as well as three attorneys general: Scott Pruitt (R-OK), Patrick Morrisey (R-WV), and Ken Paxton (R-TX). All parties are currently engaged in legal challenges to the CPP.
Opening arguments are scheduled to begin in federal appeals court in September over legal challenges filed by the fossil fuel industry and GOP attorneys general seeking to halt implementation of the CPP.
Corporations can pay a premium rate RAGA membership fee of up to $125,000 for the privilege of holding private briefings with attorneys general and their staff, as well as attending the annual meeting. The conference provides ample opportunity for attorneys general to directly solicit campaign contributions from corporate representatives during private meetings, informal conversations and leisure activities—like kayaking, a five-hour golf game, and a National Rifle Association-sponsored shooting tournament.
An attendee list for the 2015 summer conference also included representatives from Koch Industries, American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), American Chemistry Council, America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA), Devon Energy, Edison Electric Institute, Georgia Power, National Mining Association, NextEra Energy, Nuclear Energy Institute, Troutman Sanders, U.S. Chamber for Legal Reform, the State Policy Network and Peabody Energy.
According to materials reviewed by CMD, since 2015 RAGA has received at least $100,000 from ExxonMobil, $350,000 from Koch Industries, $85,000 from Southern Company, $378,250 from the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), and $250,000 from Murray Energy. In total, fossil fuel interests, utilities and their trade groups have given more than $2.25 million to RAGA since 2015.