CYNICISM RED ALERT: Gray Lady Gives NRDC the Hero Treatment for Clean Air Act Flip Flop

by William Yeatman on July 7, 2014

in Blog

On the one hand: In a previous post, I explained how the Natural Resources Defense Council used to argue that EPA does not have the authority to regulate greenhouse gases from power plants under §111(d) of the Clean Air Act.

On the other: In Sunday’s New York Times, there’s a hagiography of the NRDC lawyers—“combatants”—who, according to the paper of record, wrote the policy brief that served as the “blueprint” for the EPA’s recently released plan to regulate greenhouse gases from power plants pursuant to  §111(d) of the Clean Air Act, a.k.a. the “innovative and audacious” Clean Power Plan.

That’s a gross inconsistency that these esquires would be kind to explain. Of course, I’m not holding my breath. 

Below, I’ve reposted the first few purple paragraphs of the New York Times profile; here’s the link. See here for a more detailed look as to whether EPA has the authority to issue the Clean Power Plan. (The agency doesn’t, fyi).

WASHINGTON — In November 2010, three combatants gathered in a sleek office here to build a carbon emissions policy that they hoped to sell to the Obama administration.

One was a lawyer who had been wielding the Clean Air Act since his days at the University of California, Berkeley. Another had turned to practicing environmental law and writing federal regulations to curb pollution after spending a summer on a pristine island off Nova Scotia. The third, a climate scientist who is a fixture on Capitol Hill, became an environmentalist because of postcollege backpacking trips in the Rockies.

The three were as seasoned and well connected as Washington’s best-paid lobbyists because of their decades of experience and the relationships they formed in the capital.

Over the next two years the lawyers, David Doniger and David Hawkins, and the scientist, Daniel Lashof, worked with a team of experts to write a 110-page proposal, widely viewed as innovative and audacious, that was aimed at slashing planet-warming carbon pollution from the nation’s coal-fired power plants. On June 2, President Obama proposed a new Environmental Protection Agency rule to curb power plant emissions that used as its blueprint the work of the three men and their team.

It was a remarkable victory for the Natural Resources Defense Council, the longtime home of Mr. Doniger and Mr. Hawkins and, until recently, of Mr. Lashof. The organization has a reach that extends from the big donors of Wall Street to the elite of Hollywood (Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert Redford are on its board) to the far corners of the Environmental Protection Agency, where Mr. Doniger and Mr. Hawkins once worked.

The group’s leaders understand the art of influence: In successfully drafting a climate plan that heavily influenced the president’s proposal, the organization followed the strategy used by the American Petroleum Institute, the lobbying arm of the oil industry, to write an energy policy for Vice President Dick Cheney during the Bush administration.

“The N.R.D.C. proposal has its fingerprints throughout this, for sure,” said Dallas Burtraw, an energy policy expert at Resources for the Future, a Washington nonprofit, describing how the council’s work influenced the proposed 650-page environmental regulation.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: