Polluter lobbyists, Senate staff: A murky relationship
At first it seemed like simply one bad idea from Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). But now we know the real story — a tangled web of public officials, polluter lobbyists, and efforts to gut the Clean Air Act.
And every day it seems we’re learning more — more about the revolving door between the Bush administration and polluter lobbyists; more about their influence with senators and their staffers; and more about who’s really pulling the strings on efforts to block climate action — Big Oil’s MVP, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.).
Some of the best reporting this week has come from Juliet Eilperin at the Washington Post’s Post Carbon blog. Earlier this week, Eilperin had reported that polluter lobbyists were helping Sen. Murkowski’s staffers write legislation to strip environmental protections:
The maneuvering comes as The Washington Post has confirmed that two Washington lobbyists, Jeffrey R. Holmstead and Roger R. Martella, Jr., helped craft the original amendment Murkowski planned to offer on the floor last fall. Both Holmstead, who heads the Environmental Strategies Group and Bracewell & Guiliani, and Martella, a partner at Sidley Austin LLP, held senior posts at EPA under the Bush administration and represents multiple clients with an interest in climate legislation pending before Congress.
And today, even more about the close working relationships between polluter lobbyists and Senate staffers:
More details have emerged about the involvement by two lobbyists — who were senior Environmental Protection Agency officials during the George W. Bush administration — in crafting an amendment Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) tried to offer in the fall in an effort to bar the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases on its own.
Murkowski’s staff director on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, McKie Campbell, and her energy staffer Colin Hayes, convened a meeting on Sept. 23 with aides to a handful of centrist Democrats to brief them on the final version of the amendment, according to participants and sources familiar with the session. The two lobbyists, Bracewell & Giuliani’s Jeffrey R. Holmstead and Sidley Austin’s Roger Martella Jr., called in by phone and walked the staffers through the changes that had been made to text, to reassure the staffers that Murkowski’s amendment would not block the EPA from issuing new curbs on greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles in 2010 even as it would bar the agency from imposing those limits on power plants. […]
The meeting, which took place in Hart Senate Office Building 370 at 8:45 a.m., included two aides to James M. Inhofe (Okla.), the top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Before leaving the room, participants were asked to turn in the documents Murkowski’s aides distributed, confirmed Inhofe spokesman Matthew Dempsey.
Holmstead and Martella dominated the opening of the meeting by describing how the revised amendment had answered the attacks lodged by some Democrats and environmental groups, a source said.
The two men are both experts in the Clean Air Act, and represent clients with a financial stake in climate legislation moving through Congress.
Why did Murkowski’s aides not want the documents to leave the room? And why, later in the article, does Holmstead issue a classic non-denial denial? “I have no memory of playing a major role in that call.” Not I did not play a role, but I don’t remember — leaving himself lots of wiggle room to revise his story later.
The stories shed new light on Sen. Murkowski’s push to strip the EPA of its Congressionally-granted, Supreme Court-approved authority to regulate global warming pollution. As Joe Mendelson, global warming policy director for the National Wildlife Federation, told Greenwire (sub. req.), the Murkowski amendment was “crafted by big polluters for big polluters.”
Why would a senator from Alaska, called the poster state for global warming, put polluters’ interests ahead of her home state’s climate concerns? In the current campaign cycle, Sen. Murkowski is Congress’ #1 recipient of electric utilities’ money and the #4 recipient of Big Oil money. And Greenpeace is now calling for an investigation of Murkowski’s lobbyist ties.
Despite this week’s revelations, Senators Inhofe & Murkowski could still try to bring to the floor their amendment to gut the Clean Air Act. Your senators need to hear from you. Email your senators right now and ask them to stop this polluter-fueled push to undercut the EPA’s efforts to protect people, wildlife, and our natural resources from the worst effects of global warming.
Cross-posted from the National Wildlife Federation’s Wildlife Promise.