President Barack Obama’s aggressive and controversial Climate Action Plan grew out of a draft proposal from one of America’s richest environmental activist groups, it emerged Monday.
The Natural Resources Defense Council, which spent $41 million of its $210 million nest egg last year pushing for changes in energy policy, circulated a 110-page document in 2012 that outlined what would become the president’s latest salvo in the global-warming wars.
Now that the Obama administration has adopted the green-group’s plan, the NRDC’s insider status is widely seen as an in-your-face response to oil, gas and coal companies that had a seat at the table 13 years ago when then-Vice President Dick Cheney convened meetings in secret to chart future energy policy.
While the Bush administration focused on extracting as much energy out of the ground as legally possible, the current White House’s policy is to erect roadblocks in the path of ‘big coal’ while rewarding alternative energy speculators with loan guarantees and other sources of public funds.
The NRDC’s proposal departed from the green movement’s previous one-size-fits-all approaches, allowing states to determine how to meet stringent carbon-emission targets while drawing them all toward the central goal of squeezing coal-generated electricity to the margins of the U.S. national power picture.
As with the Obamacare law, however, state-based solutions could result in a patchwork quilt of crisscrossing rules that aggravate tensions between businesses and the White House, while opening up the floodgates for a wealth of legal avenues by lawsuit-waving opponents.
Environmental Protection Agency regulators were among a narrow group of stakeholders who got private briefings on the proposal beginning in 2012, and based their eventual written rules on what they heard.
‘Once enacted,’ The New York Times reported on Monday, the new EPA regime ‘could do far more than just shut down coal plants; it could spur a transformation of the nation’s electricity sector.’
Such a wholesale shift is high on the list of NRDC’s priorities, and its three activists who wrote the proposal – and frequently advocate for green policies with government agencies – had all the resources they wanted to pull it off, according to an NRDC insider.
‘This was the most talked-about thing going on inside the organization,’ the veteran D.C. activist told MailOnline. ‘Nothing else we were doing – not pollution control or ESA [Endangered Species Act] work or marine protected areas – nothing had as much juice behind it.’
‘Of course, fundraising was always a trump card, but other than that, the carbon policy team got everything it wanted and pretty much had a blank check.’
The statistical analysis alone coast ‘a few hundred thousand dollars,’ NRDC lawyer David Doniger told the Times.
Doniger wrote the document along with fellow lawyer David Hawkins and Daniel Lashof, an activist described by the Times as a ‘climate scientist.’
Lashof holds a Harvard bachelor’s degree in physics and mathematics, and a Berkeley Ph.D. from an ‘Energy and Resources’ program that describes its goal not in research terms but as a policy outcome: ‘a sustainable environment and a just society.’
Before co-authoring what became the Obama White House’s latest climate rules, he helped draft the U.S. Senate’s failed ‘cap and trade’ carbon emissions bill.