News: CJ Exclusives

Pa. Group Guides NC CO2 Panel

Organization works with climate change commissions in several states

A nonprofit environmental advocacy group, which staunchly believes global warming must be reduced through reductions in human-caused carbon dioxide emissions, controls another nonprofit organization that advises a climate action panel started by the N.C. Division of Air Quality. The DAQ-created group, in turn, makes recommendations on carbon-dioxide reductions to the Legislative Commission on Global Climate Change.

The advisory organization, the Center for Climate Strategies, is Pennsylvania-based and helped establish the study commission through a proposal to DAQ. But there is question whether the study panel, called the Climate Action Plan Advisory Group (CAPAG), is authorized under N.C. law.

State Sen. Robert Pittenger, R-Charlotte, and a member of the legislative commission, said a large majority of the information coming before his panel favors the theory of human causes for global warming and the need for curbs on carbon-dioxide emissions.

“It seems to me that CAPAG and other ancillary groups came to the Commission with predetermined objectives,” he said.

The legislative commission and the advisory group have many of the same members, but do not entirely share common purposes. The legislative commission was created to examine the causes of global climate change, and to determine the costs and benefits of any actions taken by the state to address global climate change, among other duties.

The advisory group has one main responsibility: find ways to control emissions of carbon dioxide, primarily from coal-burning power plants “and other stationary sources of air pollution.”

The Center for Climate Strategies has assisted several other states with the development of carbon-dioxide reduction policies. For the Center’s representatives and contractors, human-induced global warming because of carbon-dioxide emissions is a given; the only question is how governments should instill carbon limitations into regulatory policies.

“The decision was made at the outset was not to debate the whole science of global warming,” said DAQ and CAPAG spokesman Tom Mather. “It is beyond the scope of this group.”

The Center for Climate Strategies’ background is complex. It is a policy center of Enterprising Environmental Solutions, Inc., a nonprofit organization. EESI, according to its Web site, created the center in 2004 “to support states and other entities in the creation and management of climate change mitigation plans and policies, along with related energy, economic and environmental policies.” The center, in assisting states, says it analyzes policies, designs programs, and builds “consensus” and “capacity” — while working with public officials, stakeholders, and technical experts “to jointly plan and implement lasting solutions.”

DAQ and EESI

The DAQ’s contract is with EESI. However, behind that nonprofit organization is yet another nonprofit organization: the Pennsylvania Environmental Council. The PEC is a group created in the 1970s for the purpose of influencing Pennsylvania’s government, with a mission that “protects and restores the natural and built environments through innovation, collaboration, education and advocacy.” The council has five regional offices in Pennsylvania and has 35 employees.

If the Pennsylvania Environmental Council was meant to influence its home state, then EESI was created to advise policy in other states. According to EESI’s Web site, it was established upon the completion of the “Governor’s 21st Century Environment Commission,” which had been created by the executive order of former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, a Republican.

“The (EESI) effort represents an opportunity to advance environmental policy by overcoming the gridlock surrounding long-term solutions to problems such as mobile sources of air pollution, non-point sources of water pollution, and energy and resource conservation,” EESI’s Web site explains.

EESI’s tax returns

According to EESI’s IRS Form 990 for fiscal 2005, the Pennsylvania Environmental Council “formed EESI to carry out their non-regulatory agenda.” The tax return says EESI has its own board of directors, but the Pennsylvania nonprofit controls it, “since PEC is the only member of EESI.” Two of PEC’s directors, as well as its president, Brian Hill, are also on EESI’s four-member board. Hill earned more than $105,000 in salary and benefits from PEC through June 30, 2006, after being hired in April 2006.

Hill said, in an e-mail response to questions, that PEC “is known in Pennsylvania as an environmental group that brings a balanced approach to issues.” It has about 40 members on its board of directors, from conservation groups, business, and local government. He said his organization emphasizes “stakeholder-driven processes,” meaning they attempt to bring together community members from different sectors of the economy and special interests, to address environmental concerns.

As for the global warming debate, the Pennsylvania Environmental Council squarely sides with the belief that human-industrial activity is the cause and carbon-dioxide reduction is the remedy. Some others in the science community disagree and attribute the Earth’s temperature rise to natural trends.

‘No advocacy mission’

“No environmental issue is more pressing today than energy and climate,” the PEC Web site says.

Tom Peterson, executive director for the Center for Climate Strategies, says EESI and the center are independent from the Pennsylvania Environmental Council.

“The idea that we have advocates for PEC working on the North Carolina project is incorrect,” he said. “(EESI) does not have an advocacy mission, and it doesn’t have an advocacy history.”

Where does the funding come from?

The Center for Climate Strategies, EESI’s subsidiary, has partners in its work. The Rockefeller Brothers Fund — a philanthropic organization that provides millions of dollars in funding to liberal ecological causes, as well as other initiatives such as peace, security, sustainable development, arts, education, and health — is one of them.

In 2005 Rockefeller Brothers granted $255,000 over two years for the work of the Center for Climate Strategies in various states, including the Colorado Climate Project, the Western Regional Air Partnership (formed by the Western Governors Association), the New Mexico Climate Change Advisory Group, and others. Rockefeller Brothers accounted for at least $50,000 of the Center for Climate Strategies’ funding for North Carolina’s advisory group project.

Two books that scrutinized the funding and activities of hundreds of organizations in the environmental movement explained the key role of the Rockefellers’ various foundations. In 1993’s Trashing the Economy: How Runaway Environmentalism is Wrecking America, co-authors Ron Arnold and Alan Gottlieb wrote, “The Rockefeller Brothers Fund has been one of the two Mother Ships of the environmental movement for decades, the other being Laurence Rockefeller’s American Conservation Association.” Bonner Cohen, in his 2006 book published by the Capital Research Center entitled The Green Wave: Environmentalism and Its Consequences, says “the Rockefeller Brothers fund has generously supported Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, Rainforest Action Network, and Environmental Media Service.”

‘Reflexive anti-capitalism’

The Capital Research Center, which studies nonprofit organizations that promote the growth of government instead of “viable private alternatives,” in a January 2005 newsletter said the Rockefeller Brothers Fund was characterized by “reflexive anti-capitalism.” The Fund’s 2005 Annual Report was titled, “Solutions to Global Warming: A National Conversation We Desperately Need to Have,” and began with the sentence, “Earth is running a fever.”

Hill said funding received from Rockefeller Brothers, and others, has no bearing on how EESI or the Center for Climate Strategies manages its projects. “We know that our organization emphasizes a balanced and well-reasoned approach to environmental issues,” he said.

The Center for Climate Strategies is the recipient of grants from many other liberal patrons. The Charlottesville, Va.-based WestWind Foundation gave $30,000 for Climate Strategies’ programs in the Southeast. The Compton Foundation in Redwood City, Calif., provided a $26,000 grant for the Arizona and New Mexico projects. The Boston-based John Merck Fund gave $45,000 for Climate Strategies’ efforts in Vermont. Many more support the center.

Won’t ‘specify outcomes’

“All private funding obtained by EESI to support the work of [the Center for Climate Strategies] has no mandate for, or commitment to, specific policy outcomes,” Hill said.

EESI’s contract with North Carolina to assist the advisory group was sole sourced, which means that open bidding among vendors was not conducted. Part of the justification for sole sourcing was the funding provided by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, which matched an initial $50,000 that the DAQ put into the project. The contract has since been amended, adding $50,000 from DAQ while EESI came up with an additional $200,000. The initial proposal from EESI outlined the overall $350,000 budget for the project, with the state contributing only $100,000 altogether. The sources of EESI’s second-phase $200,000 contribution to the project were not immediately available at press time.

Control technologies

DAQ officials say the genesis of the agreement with EESI is found in the 2002 Clean Smokestacks Act. The law required that DAQ study standards, plans, and programs designed to control carbon-dioxide emissions. It also called for DAQ to evaluate “control technologies” and to “estimate the benefits and costs of alternative strategies to reduce emissions of CO2.” However, the law required DAQ to complete its work and reports on carbon dioxide by September 2005, so it is not clear whether the agency is authorized to continue studying the issue.

According to the contract, EESI was hired to help develop a Climate Action Plan for the state through a process of bringing “stakeholders” within the state together on a commission to make recommendations. Such stakeholders would include officials from state environmental advocacy groups, utilities, scientists, business, government agencies, and universities.

DAQ said that the sole-sourced contract with EESI was needed because the department did not have the time, budget, or skills needed to carry out the climate commission advisory program. “A large additional portion of funding to support this process will come from an outside grantor [Rockefeller Brothers Fund] directly to (EESI) and would not be available without their efforts,” DAQ officials explained in the contract.

None of the individuals working to support CAPAG are EESI employees, because EESI has no employees. Instead it receives administrative support from Scott Van de Mark of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, who is listed as the contact for EESI on the contract with the DAQ. Hill emphasized, however, that no PEC staff are used for actual climate planning in the advisory group processes.

Most advisors to CAPAG are outside environmental consultants subcontracted by EESI. Thomas Peterson is identified as the executive director of the Center for Climate Strategies, but is compensated as an independent contractor. He teaches climate law and policy as an adjunct professor at Pennsylvania State University, was a senior advisor to the White House Climate Change Task Force and served as a legislative advisor to Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn. In fiscal 2005 EESI paid Peterson nearly $180,000 for his consulting work.

A May 2006 PowerPoint presentation given by Peterson for the Center for Climate Strategies illustrated the organization’s position on greenhouse gases, saying they “cause global warming and climate disruption.” On a slide headlined “Reasons for Action,” bullet points included “Avoided damages,” “Shape policy,” “Seize markets,” and “Political wins.” He characterized Climate Strategies as “a neutral and expert party” providing technical assistance to public officials.

“We’re a service organization,” he said in a phone interview. “We don’t accept contingent outcomes from any donor, including [from] states.”

Other experts for CAPAG work as subcontractors for EESI. Ken Colburn is employed by New Hampshire-based Symbiotic Strategies, which was paid $104,230 for work by EESI in fiscal 2005. CAPAG experts Steve Roe and Randy Straight work for Springfield, Va.-based E.H. Pechan & Associates, an environmental consulting firm, which received $195,819 from EESI the same year. Karl Hausker, another CAPAG expert, was paid $91,900 in 2005-06 by EESI as a subcontractor. Not all compensation was necessarily for the N.C. project.

‘Dire consequences’

Colburn in the past has warned of future dire consequences as the result of global warming, which he believes will continue if human-caused carbon-dioxide emissions are not reduced. At the November 2006 annual meeting (video link) of the Mount Washington Valley (N.H.) Economic Council, he showed photographs of shrinking glaciers, told stories about melting mountain snow, and the eradication of animal species, should carbon-dioxide reduction not be dealt with immediately.

“If you want to get to Kilimanjaro and scale it with snow on it, you’d better do it in the next few years,” he told the group, “(in) the next decade or so.”

Peterson said the personal views of their subcontractors do not affect the information they provide as experts for CAPAG members. He said all EESI representatives sign a code of conduct, patterned after the Model Standards of Conduct for Mediators, which was approved by the American Arbitration Association and American Bar Association in 2005.

He said CAPAG members are presented a list of actions on carbon dioxide that other states have adopted, and then subgroups of the advisory group develop their own list of options to consider. He said whatever the group adopts is of their own volition.

“We don’t make those decisions for them,” Peterson said.

Not everyone is convinced that CAPAG and the Center for Climate Strategies are neutral. Pittenger has invited scientists who are skeptical about human causes of global warming to meetings of the Legislative Commission for Global Climate Change. For the most part, he said, the few who have been allowed to speak have been ignored, while those promoting the need for immediate, dramatic reductions in carbon dioxide are welcomed.

‘No consensus’

“There is no consensus among climatologists,” Pittenger said. “The loud clamoring from these green organizations with the support of liberal media have overshadowed a pure scientific discussion and debate.”

He said the recommendations that come from CAPAG, which will be considered by the Legislative Commission, could have harmful effects on the state’s economy. CAPAG already has sent an interim report to the commission, which contained several ideas that would require further government regulation on business and add costs to utility bills.

“I believe that the policy recommendations by these groups will further restrict economic growth in our state while China, India, and other developing nations go unabated,” Pittenger said.

“We have lost over 100,000 North Carolina jobs to China through manufacturing and textiles, and now China will enjoy unbridled economic growth while North Carolina places crippling CO2 mandates and restrictions on its industries,” he said.

Paul Chesser (pchesser@carolinajournal.com) is associate editor of Carolina Journal.