Energy execs, AGs huddled at resort ahead of litigation

Source: Hannah Hess, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, September 8, 2016

Attorneys general from Republican-led states met with energy executives at the West Virginia’s storied Greenbrier resort less than two weeks before they filed a lawsuit last year aimed at halting U.S. EPA’s rule for curbing greenhouse gases from power plants.

The closed-door meetings took place last August at a four-day summit hosted by the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA), according to an agendaobtained by a watchdog group using public records requests.

Representatives of Murray Energy Corp., American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers and Southern Co. attended private meetings of up to 40 minutes.

Documents obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy say corporations could 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.

“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,” Nick Surgey, research director for the nonprofit, said in a statement.

The summit also provided an opportunity for attorneys general to solicit campaign contributions from attendees, according to a separate fundraising schedule. Attendees could discuss their priorities during private meetings, informal conversations and leisure activities — kayaking, a five-hour golf game and a shooting tournament sponsored by the National Rifle Association.

A Murray Energy attorney and the head of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity joined three Republican attorneys general from states leading the fight against the Clean Power Plan — Patrick Morrisey of West Virginia, Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma and Ken Paxton of Texas — for an hourlong panel during the conference titled “The Dangerous Consequences of the Clean Power Plan & Other EPA Rules.”

Murray Energy spokesman Gary Broadbent said the company is “proud” to support RAGA “in working to combat the numerous illegal and destructive actions of the Obama administration.” The company’s arguments against the rule, stayed by Supreme Court in February, are well-documented in public comments and court filings, he said.

Broadbent said the state attorneys general who have lined up to fight the rules in court “determined that this [plan] is illegal and acted on their own.”

Opponents of the rule argue that virtually all Democrats support regulations that threaten coal and other fossil fuels, so they have no choice but to support politicians who are trying to protect the industry.

RAGA did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Greenwire.

Scott Will, executive director of RAGA, told Bloomberg Politics that there is no link between contributors and litigation, only “between executive overreach and litigation.”

An attendee list for the 2015 summer conference also included representatives from Koch Industries Inc., the American Chemistry Council, America’s Natural Gas Alliance, Devon Energy Corp., the Edison Electric Institute, Georgia Power Co., the National Mining Association, NextEra Energy Inc., the Nuclear Energy Institute and Peabody Energy Corp.

RAGA has received since 2015 at least $100,000 from Exxon Mobil Corp., $350,000 from Koch Industries, $85,000 from Southern, $378,250 from the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity and $250,000 from Murray Energy, according to materials reviewed by the 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,” Surgey said.

“Together, these documents reveal a sustained pattern of collusion between the fossil fuel industry and the Republican attorneys general on climate change obstructionism,” he added.