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    Tuesday, August 11, 2009


    Tally of Interests on Climate Bill Tops a Thousand; Agriculture, Higher Ed, Natural Gas, You Name It. Everyone’s Got a LobbyistMarianne Lavelle (w/David Donald, M.B. Pell, Joe Kokenge, Josh Israel, Te-Ping Chen, and Sarabeth Sanders), August 10, 2009 (Center for Public Integrity)

    Tally of Interests on Climate Bill Tops a Thousand; Agriculture, Higher Ed, Natural Gas, You Name It. Everyone’s Got a Lobbyist is another entry in Marianne Lavelle’s yeomanly work documenting the fact of and impacts from lobbying on the climate change debate in Washington, D.C., and the energy/climate legislation arising from it. (See also THE CLIMATE CHANGE BUSINESS and MORE ON THE CLEAN COAL LOBBY'S ASSAULT)

    460+ new groups joined the lobbying effort in the 12 weeks leading up to the June 26 House of Representatives vote on the landmark Waxman/Markey energy/climate bill.

    There were 880 groups registered as climate advocacy organizations at the start of 2009 and ~1,150 by June 26, a jump of 30+% as things got hot. (190 of the groups registered as climate advocates at the beginning of the year had dropped out by the time of the vote.)

    From Lavelle/CPI (click to enlarge)

    There are not adequate records to precisely document advocacy spending but Lavelle and her Center for Public Integrity (CPI) researchers estimate it at a minimum of $27+ million for the 2nd quarter (April-to-June).

    The biggest lobbying presences: First, ~200 heavy energy-using and greenhouse gas (GhG)-spewing manufacturers and their advocates. Next, ~130 power companies and utilities. This perhaps helps explain the benefits in the legislation won by coal and coal utility interests, especially the free GhG allowances provided to them in the bill’s cap&trade system, allowances thought to eventually be worth billions of dollars.

    Independent natural gas producers want some of what coal got. Some 24 companies, representing ~40% of U.S. natural gas production, have hired America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA) to represent them in the upcoming Senate fight. ANGA has begun arguing that natural gas, a much cleaner fossil fuel than coal, should have a much bigger role in U.S. power generation. Congress could mandate such a switch.

    click to enlarge

    The coal industry’s advocates are already fighting back with the argument that a switch from coal to natural gas would be costly for U.S. electricity customers.

    Turning to a different lobby, Lavelle outlined how the influence-peddling can work. As the support of representatives from states with big agriculatural interests became more crucial to the passage of HR 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (ACESA), ~20 biofuels-associated groups (refiners and would-be refiners of corn, wood chips, algae and many types of organic matter) started lobbying for the first time. A total of ~80 advocacy groups soon were involved.

    A Congressional aide in the thick of the last-minute lobbying told Lavelle the assault was intense but the bill’s purpose, to cut greenhouse gas emissions (GhGs) 17% by 2020, was not compromised. That very well may be, but Big Ag got big concessions. In return, the bill got just enough votes to pass.

    Lavelle documented the boom in lobbying in a previous CPI piece. (click to enlarge)

    Benefits obtained by agriculture advocates in the House fight were more identifiable than other groups’ benefits because of the high-profile June confrontation between Collin Peterson (D-Minn), Chair of the House Agriculture Committee, and the bill’s authors, Representative Henry Waxman (D-Calif), Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Representative Ed Markey, Chair of the House Energy Subcommittee.

    Peterson threatened to block the bill if farmers weren’t protected from the expenses of cap&trade. Waxman and Markey rewrote the law so farmers would get exemptions from some emissions restrictions and included protection for ethanol crop growers and refiners.

    It is not surprising Big Ag got its way. The ethanol and biofuel lobbying powerhouses were led by POET Biorefining, the leading U.S. ethanol producer. Though a first-time lobbyist, POET has deep pockets. POET and fellow ethanol makers worked through veteran advocate group Growth Energy. Its chief spokesman: Wesley Clark, a retired four-star general and former NATO commander. Its CEO: Tom Buis, long-time farm lobbist. Its special adviser: Former Iowa Republican congressman Jim Nussle. Its newly acquired consultants (at a $30,000 fee for the second quarter House fight: Kountoupes Consulting, served by Clinton administration congressional liaison Lisa Kountoupes, a former staffer to Energy and Commerce chair emeritus John Dingell, and Melissa Shannon, former legislative aide to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

    Biofuels are big so they have to have a big lobby. (click to enlarge)

    Now that the issue has moved to the Senate, where an even tougher fight is expected, Growth Energy has added new heavyweights: Anne Steckel, former aide to Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill), the majority whip, and Ted Monoson, former aide to Representative John Boehner (R-Ohio), House Minority Leader.

    Next-generation biofuels growers and technology companies now bio-engineering next-generation biofuels (Algenol Biofuels, PetroAlgae, Kai BioEnergy, Aurora Biofuels) had lobbyists in the House fight, as did biomass advocates (Florida Crystals). They are expected to retain their presence going forward into the Senate fight.

    A latecomer to the lobbying on this climate and energy bill, natural gas's ANGA is working the Senate, the White House, and Obama administration energy and environmental officials. ANGA ia working thruough Wexler & Walker Public Policy Associates, which includes a lobbyists’ murderers’ row of (1) Joel Malina, former aide to Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY), (2) Jack Howard, former White House staffer to both President Bushes and former senior adviser to GOP House Speakers Dennis Hastert and Newt Gingrich, and (4) former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott. Rod Lowman, 17-year president of the American Plastics Council, is now ANGA’s president. Lowman says ANGA is determined to make the case for natural gas to the Senate.

    Natural gas is about to get big. The proof? It's got a big lobby. (click to enlarge)

    Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif), Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and Senator John Kerry (D-Mass), Chair of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, are presently writing the Senate’s energy and climate legislation. Senator Boxer says the fun begins September 8 but D.C. insiders say the lobbyists took no summer vacation this year.

    Other identified advocates during the House fight:
    - American Superconductor lobbied for transmission upgrades that would obviously require their high voltage capabilities.
    - T. Boone Pickens also advocated for new transmission, the only thing lacking in his ambitious wind power development plans.

    Identify what these groups would have advocated in the House energy and climate bill and state whether they will be part of the Senate fight:
    - Hadassah
    - The Women’s Zionist Organization of America
    - The National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
    - Americans United for Separation of Church and State

    That's a trick question. Sorry. The latter group joined the fight in the quarter before the House vote, concerned that subsidies for retrofitting might go to “faith-based” organizations. Lavelle didn’t elaborate on the activities of the other religion-oriented groups or whether they are expected to follow the issue to the Senate.

    Schools seeking money:
    ~30 educational institutions, from Ivy League colleges to community colleges and science centers, got involved in the last quarter before House vote, looking to lock down funding and access to education grants for climate change-associated programs.

    Footnote: Is the ANGA lobbying effort showing any results? Answer: The ~1,100 other lobbyists wish they could be as effective. In the last few weeks, natural gas has added Al Gore and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., to the list of its supporters as a “cleaner” energy source that could eliminate U.S. dependence on coal and bridge the nation’s path to New Energy.

    What is it about her that's so appealing? (click to enlarge)

    - Lavelle: “It’s impossible to say with certainty how much money was spent on lobbying the climate bill, since businesses don’t have to detail expenses for separate issues they are pushing in Congress — like climate, health care, the economic stimulus, or taxes. But so many groups were lobbying climate that even if the issue consumed only 10 percent of their efforts, the cost would have been more than $27 million in just the second quarter-from April through June.”
    Letter from 5 science centers to Congressmen Waxman and Markey: “…[W]e see few more important issues for our future as a species…”
    - Unnamed senior Congressional staffer: “The closer we got to finishing the bill, the more intense the frenzy to get little pieces into the bill… It worked out okay, but sometimes at the end of the day you felt like you had been pawed by a lot of people — all your good friends who just wanted to help you out on this piece of legislation.”

    The Sierra Club does not think much of the coal lobby. (click to enlarge)

    - Buis: “What [House Ag Chair Peterson] did was stand up for all of rural America and say ‘We’re gong to be impacted by this and we want some of these issues addressed,’…Did he get them all addressed to satisfy everyone? I think that obviously Senator [Tom] Harkin [D-Iowa] and the Senate Agriculture Committee are going to be addressing other concerns. Because if you look at the Senate, it’s going to have to address ag issues, because I don’t see how you get to 60 votes without it.”
    - Rod Lowman, former president, American Plastics Council/president, ANGA: “The principal question we’re getting, quite frankly, is ‘Where have you been?’ … The utilities and the coal industry have been at this for a very long time…[because] most of the deals had been cut during the House fight]…The Senate will be looking at those emissions allowances, looking at offsets, looking at renewable energy standards — all those things will be revisited — and we want to make sure we are a part of that discussion…We will be a part of it.”


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